We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

“A gripping, bighearted book.” —Khaled Hosseini



Winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award



One of the New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2013 and named by The Christian Science Monitor as one of the top 15 works of fiction



The New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club introduces a middle-class American family, ordinary in every way but one.



Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion … she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.



In We Are All Completely beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler weaves her most accomplished work to date—a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.
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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
Praise for WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES
 
“A novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get . . . [Its] fresh diction and madcap plot bend the tone toward comedy, but it never mislays its solemn raison d’être. Monkeyshines aside, this is a story of Everyfamily in which loss engraves relationships, truth is a soulful stalker and coming-of-age means facing down the mirror, recognizing the shape-shifting notion of self.”—Barbara Kingsolver, The New York Times Book Review

“Fowler’s interests here are in what sets humans apart from their fellow primates. Cognitive, language and memory skills all come into playful question. But the heart of the novel — and it has a big, warm, loudly beating heart throughout — is in its gradually pieced-together tale of family togetherness, disruption and reconciliation. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is Fowler at her best, mixing cerebral and emotional appeal together in an utterly captivating manner.”—The Seattle Times  

“Rosemary’s voice is achingly memorable, and Fowler’s intelligent discourse on science vs. compassion reshapes the traditional family novel into something more universally relevant. The Cookes are unlike other families and like them at the same time, and through Rosemary’s unique perspective Fowler forces us to confront some tough truths. This brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense.”—The Miami Herald
 
 “Rosemary’s voice—vulnerable, angry, shockingly honest—is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible.  A fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping.”—Kirkus (starred review)
 
“Piquant humor, refulgent language, a canny plot rooted in real-life experiences, an irresistible narrator, threshing insights, and tender emotions—Fowler has outdone herself in this deeply inquisitive, cage-rattling novel.”—Booklist (starred review)
 
“A strong, unsettling novel . . . Fowler explores the depths of human emotions and delivers a tragic love story that captures our hearts.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Rosemary’s experience [is] a fascinating basis for insight into memory, the mind, and human development . . . Fowler’s great accomplishment is not just that she takes the standard story of a family and makes it larger, but that the new space she’s created demands exploration.”—Publishers Weekly
 
"In this curious, wonderfully intelligent novel, Karen Joy Fowler brings to life a most unusual family.  Wonderful Fern, wonderful Rosemary!  Through them we feel what it means to be a human animal."Andrea Barrett, author of Servants of the Map and Ship Fever
 
“Karen Joy Fowler has written the book she's always had in her to write.  With all the quiet strangeness of her amazing Sarah Canary, and all the breezy wit and skill of her beloved Jane Austen Book Club, and a new, urgent gravity, she has told the story of an American family. An unusual family—but aren't all families unusual?  A very American, an only-in-America family—and yet an everywhere family, whose children, parents, siblings, love one another very much, and damage one another badly.  Does the love survive the damage?  Will human beings survive the damage they do to the world they love so much?  This is a strong, deep, sweet novel.”—Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Lavinia, The Unreal and the Real, and the Earthsea Cycle
 
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but. This novel is deliciously jaunty in tone and disturbing in material. Karen Joy Fowler tells the story of how one animal—the animal of man—can simultaneously destroy and expand our notion of what is possible.”—Alice Sebold, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon
 
“You know how people say something is incredible or unbelievable when they mean it's excellent? Well, Karen Joy Fowler's new book is excellent: utterly believable and completely credible - a funny, moving, entertaining novel that is also an important and unblinking review of a shameful chapter in the history of science.”—Dr. Mary Doria Russell, biological anthropologist and author of The Sparrow and Doc

“It’s been years since I’ve felt so passionate about a book. When I finished at 3 a.m., I wept, then I woke up the next morning, reread the ending, and cried all over again.” Ruth Ozeki, author of My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being
 
"This unforgettable novel is a dark and beautiful journey into the heart of a family,   an exploration of the meanings of memory, a study of what it means to be 'human.'  In the end the book doesn't just break your heart; it takes your heart and won't give it back."—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake
 
“It really is impossible to do justice here in a blurb. This is a funny, stingingly smart, and heartbreaking book. Among other things, it's about love, family, loss, and secrets; the acquisition and the loss of language. It's also about two sisters, Rosemary and Fern, who are unlike any other sisters you've ever met before.”—Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Pretty Monsters

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101595688
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/30/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 6,758
  • File size: 651 KB

Meet the Author

Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler is the award-winning author of four story collections and five previous novels. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Biography

A genre such as science fiction, with its deeply committed fans and otherworldly subject matter, tends to stand apart from the rest of the book world. So when one writer manages to push the boundaries and achieve success with both sci-fi and mainstream fiction readers, it's a feat that signals she's worth paying attention to.

In terms of subject matter, Karen Joy Fowler is all over the map. Her first novel, 1991's Sarah Canary, is the story of the enigmatic title character, set in the Washington Territory in 1873. A Chinese railway worker's attempt to escort Sarah back to the insane asylum he believes she came from turns into more than he bargained for. Fowler weaves race and women's rights into the story, and it could be another historical novel -- except for a detail Fowler talks about in a 2004 interview. "I think for science fiction readers, it's pretty obvious that Sarah Canary is an alien," Fowler says. Yet other readers are dumbfounded by this news, seeing no sign of it. For her part, Fowler refuses to make a declaration either way.

Sarah Canary was followed in 1996 by The Sweetheart Season, a novel about a 1950s women's baseball league that earned comparisons to Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon works; and the 2001 novel Sister Noon, which Fowler called "a sort of secret history of San Francisco." For all three novels, critics lauded Fowler for her originality and compelling storytelling as she infused her books with elements of fantasy and well-researched history.

In 2004, Fowler released her first contemporary novel, The Jane Austen Book Club. It dealt with five women and one man reading six of Austen's novels over a six-month period, and earned still more praise for Fowler. The New York Times called the novel shrewd and funny; The Washington Post said, "It's... hard to explain quite why The Jane Austen Book Club is so wonderful. But that it is wonderful will soon be widely recognized, indeed, a truth universally acknowledged." Though Fowler clearly wrote the book with Austen fans in mind – she too loves the English author of classics such as Pride and Prejudice -- knowledge of Austen's works is not a prerequisite for enjoyment.

Readers who want to learn more about Fowler's sci-fi side should also seek out her short story collections. Black Glass (1999) is not a strictly sci-fi affair, but it is probably the most readily available; her Web site offers a useful bibliography of stories she has published in various collections and sci-fi journals, including the Nebula Award-winning "What I Didn't See."

Fowler also continues to be involved with science fiction as a co-founder of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, designed to honor "science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender." The award has spawned two anthologies, which Fowler has taken part in editing.

Whether or not Fowler moves further in the direction of mainstream contemporary fiction, she clearly has the flexibility and skill as a writer to retain fans no matter what. Her "category" as a writer may be fluid, but it doesn't seem to make a difference to readers who discover her unique, absorbing stories and get wrapped up in them.

Good To Know

In our interview, Fowler shared some fun facts about herself with us:

"The first thing I ever wanted to be was a dog breeder. Instead I've had a succession of eccentric pound rescues. My favorite was a Keeshond Shepherd mix, named Tamara Press after the Russian shot-putter. Tamara went through college with me, was there when I married, when I had children. She was like Nana in Peter Pan; we were a team. I'm too permissive to deal with spaniels or hounds, as it turns out. Not that I haven't had them, just that I lose the alpha advantage."

"I have cats, too. But I can't talk about them. They don't like it."

"I'm not afraid of spiders or snakes, at least not the California varieties. But I can't watch scary movies. That is, I can watch them, but I can't sleep after, so mostly I don't. Unless I'm tricked. I mention no names. You know who you are."

"I loved the television show The Night Stalker when it was on. Also The Greatest American Hero. And I Spy. And recently Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except for the final year."

"I do the crossword puzzle in the Nation every week. I don't like other crossword puzzles, only that one. It takes me two days on average."

"I take yoga classes. I eat sushi. I walk the dog. I spend way too much time on email. Mostly I read."

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    1. Hometown:
      Davis, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bloomington, Indiana
    1. Education:
      B.A., The University of California, Berkeley, 1972; M.A., The University of California, Davis, 1974

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

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(15)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is definitely a quirky book, but I liked it a lot. I though

    This is definitely a quirky book, but I liked it a lot. I though the plot moved smoothly, The characters are all richly drawn. I really recommend this book as an entertaining piece of literature. A nice follow up to the Jane Austen Book Club.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    Cannot-put-the-book-down plot. Characters so real their pulse be

    Cannot-put-the-book-down plot. Characters so real their pulse became my pulse. 
    Writing that drew me into its intricate web one shimmering strand at a time. 

    A dazzling exploration using psychology, philosophy, and science to probe
    the shadowy workings of the brain, the nerve-triggered organism of family
     and, ultimately, the mysterious place that connects us all.             

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Recommended

    First if all I liked it. But I am a biologist. But it is a clever twist on the dysfunctional family theme and also a thesis giving more wind to the halting of animal testing especially on primates. It is like an Uncle Tom's Cabin for Primates. There were some preachy parts, yes, but acceptable since Rosemary had to work through all this herself and she did strive to be very transparent. I loved the references to real live case studies on chimps and the synopsis of their research conclusions. But I also loved the quirkiness of the story. I have to think on this one for a few more days before I move on to a new book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2013

    Worst book I have ever completed

    Worst book I have ever read. HORRIBLE, BORING, PATHETIC. Sorry I spent the money on it. Who in their right mind would recommend this?

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    It Will Stay With You...

    Fowler tells such a believable story about two sisters one human, one chimpanzee raised together since birth that at times I forgot it was fiction. There are images of one heart wrenching segment burned into my mind that I will not soon forget. As a psychology major I had long forgotten reading about this research, then I read it dispassionately at a safe clinical distance. Now, Fowler's book deals with the same subject yet grabbed hold of my emotions and would not let go. So much food for thought here family dysfunction, insecurity, love, ethics, pros/cons of animal research of course, but other questions as well, for example, how can we as adults sort out trauma we experienced as a child? Think about it! Admittedly, some of the philosophical discussion was beyond me, but this book has so much more to offer. Give it a try!

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  • Posted April 7, 2014

    Did not care for this book..., who in their right mind would sub

    Did not care for this book..., who in their right mind would subject their child to live in this environment

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2014

    Boring

    Not my cup of tea

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Esquisitely revealing, beautifully Exquisitely written. Exquisitely written, deeply reflective

    A unique tale of identity and love that will pull on the hearstrings, and leave readers questioning human nature. Easily one of my new favorites.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 11, 2014

    I did not enjoy this book at all, it was very gloomy and dark.

    I did not enjoy this book at all, it was very gloomy and dark. At times the novel seemed disjointed and hard to follow.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2014

    Loved the monkey girl's story

    A well told story involving some quite complex characters. I loved the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    Absolutely riveting. I don't want to say anything about the plot

    Absolutely riveting. I don't want to say anything about the plot because I think it would have been an even more amazing unfolding had I not known anything about it. What I will say is that this is an extraordinary, powerful novel and that Karen Joy Fowler's writing is brilliant. And it isn't just a fictional romp - much of the "science" in this story actually took place. This is subject matter that needs to be read by all. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    We are all completely beside ourselves  Karen Joy Fowler  Trade

    We are all completely beside ourselves 
    Karen Joy Fowler 
    Trade Paperback 
    Publisher: A Marian Wood Book/Putnam 
    Publication Date: May 30, 2013 
    ISBN-13: 978-0399162091 
    320 pages 
    Uncorrected Proof - Advance Reader’s Copy

         Karen Joy Fowler writes some of the oddest fiction I’ve ever read. And when I say odd I mean brilliant in a slanted, quirky way. When she writes a nostalgic scene you will think of your childhood home, your grandparents, and those you loved, laughed, and played with when you were growing up. When she wants you to laugh at yourself or teases your sensibilities you will find the humor hidden in all the little crevices of humanity. When she holds up the mirror of sentiment and emotion you will see yourself in her story.

         We are all completely beside ourselves is a story of love, family, devotion, separation, and the dichotomy of life and the biased memories we make in our own minds concerning our pasts. But more than that it’s a story of social interaction and how we act, react, and interact through emotionally stressful and confusing times.

         One undeserved criticism Fowler sometimes receives is that her characters are unfinished, furtive, and difficult to connect to. Many of her characters are mysteriously, and I think, intentionally, incomplete and here’s why I think it’s the perfect approach to creating a superior character, especially in the emotionally-driven narratives Fowler creates. Humans are enigmatic and unknown even to themselves sometimes. We are flawed, we are duplicitous, and we are opinionated and often change our attitudes. We occasionally don’t know our own minds or the real reasons we say or act the way we do. We are hurtful yet full of kindness. We are truthful but lie to preserve our own slanted images of ourselves and we confuse emotions with obsessions. Karen Joy Fowler’s characters then, mirror the gaps and holes in us all. In essence she writes enormously realistic characters that remind us of our own strengths, failings, assets, and ambiguities. Simply put, she writes convincing characters as compassionate, flawed, emotional human beings.

         This is the second novel by Karen Joy Fowler I’ve reviewed. I gave the first, Sarah Canary, a high overall review rating for originality, style, and content. We are all completely beside ourselves is no less creative than Sarah Canary and is, in my opinion, a superior read well worth the time.

         File with: mysteries, animal rights, emotionally-driven narratives, the human condition, love, loneliness, and social interaction.

    4 ½ out of 5 Stars

    The Alternative 
    Southeast Wisconsin

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    The ending is too sweet

    I enjoyed the childhood stories but her college iife--not so much

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Good read

    .

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2013

    Wow! What a story!!  I give it 6 stars!

    Wow! What a story!!  I give it 6 stars!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2013

    About:

    From what I could gather, its about 2 sisters in some sort of ivy leauge university expiriment & one turns against the other & theresb inner tourmoil, erc. Apparently its really good.

    0 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2013

    What is this book about?

    Whats the book about? It looks really good.

    0 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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