[New in Review] We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Author: Karen Joy Fowler

Publisher: Penguin

  • Imprint: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Date Published: May 30, 2013

Format: ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).

Source: Gifted from the publisher


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.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 4.5



I received a galley of this book, so there was no cover art. However based on this picture of the final cover from Goodreads, I would have to say that though it doesn’t stand out visually, the cover does hint at plot of the book.

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Must read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5


I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but the synopsis said that it was a story of a middle-class family and since I love reading about other people’s families I was eager to start it. Without spoiling much I’d say We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was a very touching story about unconventional families. The plot had a very unexpected twist which made it extremely interesting. Also as a psychology major I could truly appreciate how different psychological theories were incorporated into the plot.

Told from a first person perspective, Rosemary Cooke is an unreliable but intriguing narrator due to the gaps in her memory of her childhood which is quite realistic as our memories from childhood can be quite vulnerable being misinterpreted and confused. The story has a tendency to jump around a lot because as Rosemary explains it, she has a habit of starting from the middle whenever she tells a story. Despite a somewhat different upbringing, there were many times that I could relate to Rosemary’s character. Things like fighting for the attention of your parents with your siblings as kids and not knowing what you want to do after school are things that I am sure many people can relate to as well.

Overall I really enjoyed the dysfunctional family dynamics in the story especially seeing how having her sister taken away amplified the problems that were already there within the family structures. Rosemary ends up turning more into herself as she becomes consumed by guilt and blaming herself for her twin sister being taken away. Meanwhile, her mother who was portrayed as somewhat fragile from the start completely falls apart. But the most drastic change is in her brother, who completely isolates himself from the rest of the family, and eventually runs away becoming an extremist. Though the ending of the book is a happy one, many things are left unresolved to indicate to the reader that in real life there are always consequences to our actions and not everything can be fixed once broken.

– Linh

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review. I am currently accepting young adult fiction and adult fiction books that have a crossover appeal to young adults for review. If you have any questions or would like for me to review your book feel free to email me at lxlnguyen21@yahoo.ca.


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