We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

( 32 )

Overview

Named a Best of 2013 pick by: The New York Times Book Review, Slate, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, The Christian Science Monitor, Library Journal, and BookPage

"I thought this was a gripping, big-hearted book . . . through the tender voice of her protagonist, Fowler has a lot to say about family, memory, language, science, and indeed the question of what constitutes a human being."—Khaled Hosseini

From the New York Times–bestselling author of The Jane Austen ...

See more details below
Audiobook (CD - Unabridged)
$68.40
BN.com price
(Save 10%)$76.00 List Price
Other sellers (Audiobook)
  • All (8) from $44.81   
  • New (5) from $45.34   
  • Used (3) from $44.81   
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.

Overview

Named a Best of 2013 pick by: The New York Times Book Review, Slate, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, The Christian Science Monitor, Library Journal, and BookPage

"I thought this was a gripping, big-hearted book . . . through the tender voice of her protagonist, Fowler has a lot to say about family, memory, language, science, and indeed the question of what constitutes a human being."—Khaled Hosseini

From the New York Times–bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club, the story of an American family, middle class in middle America, ordinary in every way but one. But that exception is the beating heart of this extraordinary novel.

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.

Winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
★ 10/15/2013
Fowler's (What I Didn't See) engrossing new novel opens with Rosemary Cooke announcing she will be starting her story in the middle. With brother Lowell and sister Fern mysteriously gone, Rosemary is the only remaining child of an alcoholic researcher father and a mother left fragile by the loss of her other two children. Eventually, Rosemary reveals that Fern is a chimpanzee, raised in tandem with her as part of their father's research. Despite this sensational fact, Rosemary's narration keeps listeners grounded in convincing details of her sibling relationship with Fern. Through the stories of the three "children," Fowler examines some very difficult issues with sensitivity and balance. The exploration of ethical and philosophical issues related to the relationships between humans and the animals we interact with and carry out research on flows organically through the characters and never feels tacked on or arbitrary. Orlagh Cassidy reads the audiobook skillfully and is pleasant to listen to, but her formal tone at times seems a bit out of step with Rosemary's more casual language. VERDICT This is an intellectually rewarding novel with a first-person point of view, making it particularly well suited to audio. ["Fowler explores the depths of human emotions and delivers a tragic love story that captures our hearts," read the starred review of the Marian Wood: Penguin hc, LJ 6/1/13.]—Heather Malcolm, Bow, WA
The New York Times Book Review - Barbara Kingsolver
…a novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get…Fowler…is a trustworthy guide through many complex territories: the historical allure and dicey ethics of experimental psychology, not to mention academic families and the college towns of Bloomington and Davis…The novel's fresh diction and madcap plot…bend the tone toward comedy, but it never mislays its solemn raison d'étre. 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.
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves isn't just about an unusual childhood experiment; it's about a lifetime spent in the shadow of grief…Rosemary's voice and her efforts to understand—and forgive—herself are moving. Fowler has such a sprightly tone, an endearing way of sloughing off profound observations that will illuminate your own past even if you have no chimps swinging in your immediate family tree…What does it mean to be human, she asks, and what does it mean to be humane? Although there's little doubt where her sympathies lie, Fowler manages to subsume any polemical motive within an unsettling, emotionally complex story that plumbs the mystery of our strange relationship with the animal kingdom—relatives included.
Publishers Weekly
It’s worth the trouble to avoid spoilers, including the ones on the back cover, for Fowler’s marvelous new novel; let her introduce the troubled Cooke family before she springs the jaw-dropping surprise at the heart of the story. Youngest daughter Rosemary is a college student acting on dangerous impulses; her first connection with wild-child Harlow lands the two in jail. Rosemary and the FBI are both on the lookout for her brother Lowell, who ran away after their sister Fern vanished. Rosemary won’t say right away what it was that left their mother in a crippling depression and their psychology professor father a bitter drunk, but she has good reasons for keeping quiet; what happens to Fern is completely shattering, reshaping the life of every member of the family. In the end, when Rosemary’s mother tells her, “I wanted you to have an extraordinary life,” it feels like a fairy-tale curse. But Rosemary’s experience isn’t only heartbreak; it’s a fascinating basis for insight into memory, the mind, and human development. Even in her most broken moments, Rosemary knows she knows things that no one else can know about what it means to be a sister, and a human being. Fowler’s (The Jane Austen Book Club) 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. Agent: Wendy Weil, the Wendy Weil Agency. (June)
Washington Post
Rosemary's voice and her efforts to understand — and forgive — herself are moving. Fowler has such a sprightly tone, an endearing way of sloughing off profound observations that will illuminate your own past even if you have no chimps swinging in your immediate family tree.
Library Journal
In this eye-opener from New York Times best-selling author Fowler, Rosemary Cooke narrates the story of her family, paying special attention to sister Fern, who just happens to have been a chimpanzee. With a reading group guide.
Kirkus Reviews
What is the boundary between human and animal beings and what happens when that boundary is blurred are two of many questions raised in Fowler's provocative sixth novel (The Jane Austen Book Club, 2004, etc.), the narration of a young woman grieving over her lost sister, who happens to be a chimpanzee. Rosemary recounts her family history at first haltingly and then with increasingly articulate passion. In 1996, she is a troubled student at U.C. Davis who rarely speaks out loud. She thinks as little as possible about her childhood and the two siblings no longer part of her family. But during a Thanksgiving visit home to Bloomington, Ind., where her father is a psychology professor, that past resurfaces. Rosemary recalls her distress as a 5-year-old when she returned from visiting her grandparents to find her family living in a new house and her sister Fern gone. Denying any memory of why Fern disappeared, she claims to remember only the aftermath: her mother's breakdown; her father's withdrawal; her older brother Lowell's accelerating anger until he left the family at 18 to find Fern and become an animal rights activist/terrorist; her own continuing inability to fit in with human peers. Gradually, Rosemary acknowledges an idyllic earlier childhood when she and Fern were inseparable playmates on a farm, their intact family shared with psych grad students. By waiting to clarify that Fern was a chimpanzee, Rosemary challenges readers to rethink concepts of kinship and selfhood; for Rosemary and Lowell, Fern was and will always be a sister, not an experiment in raising a chimpanzee with human children. And when, after 10 years of silence, Lowell shows up in Davis to describe Fern's current living conditions, he shakes free more memories for Rosemary of her sibling relationship with Fern, the superior twin she loved, envied and sometimes resented. Readers will forgive Fowler's occasional didacticism about animal experimentation since 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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781470881436
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of three story collections and six novels, one a national bestseller, another a PEN/Faulkner finalist, and all New York Times Notable Books. 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."

Read More Show Less
    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
( 32 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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 10 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Awesome

    This book is so different, interesting and insightful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 18, 2014

    Great novels for me are all about character development and the

    Great novels for me are all about character development and the character development in this story was amazing. It was a very original book to me. It was original in both subject matter and the way the story was told. The main character described it as "starting in the middle". This could have been confusing but it was handled beautifully and totally enhanced the story. I also loved the way the different perspectives were handled. Sometimes the main character would come out and tell you something like, "this is what I didn't tell you" and reveal a part that is important to our understanding of the story but, although noteworthy, would not have been overly important to the character in that moment. Other times you see it in the conversations she has with others. The subject matter explores all of the complexities that subjects like animal treatment have. It is pro-animal, definitely, but it doesn't over-simplify. I was completely taken with the main character. I love the way she describes things, I love her sense of humor and her insights. Without giving anything at all away she did say, "When I run the world, librarians will be exempt from tragedy. Even their smaller sorrows will last for only as long as you can take out a book" and I work in a library and all so...... Thank you to Good Reads for the copy of this book!

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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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

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

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

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Good read

    .

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

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

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

    Posted June 3, 2013

    What is this book about?

    Whats the book about? It looks really good.

    0 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted March 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)