Written by Karen Joy Fowler, this book was recommended to me by a friend. I was hooked pretty early on. There is a huge twist fairly early on which I’ll try not to spoil for you!
Essentially, ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ is a story about sibling love and rivalry. Rosemary, as the narrator, takes us through her memories of growing up with her brother Lowell and sister Fern. We hear about their games, bickering and difficulties growing up together. If this sounds dull, it’s only because you don’t know the twist (so you’re going to have to read it!)
The narration goes back and forth between different stages of the past. One of the most interesting things about the book for me was the discussion of memory. Rosemary explains clearly that although these are her version of events, she could be completely misremembering. This leads the reader into feeling a little uncomfortable, questioning whether certain stories she’s explained actually even happened.
This book not only deals with siblings but also parents and psychology. The reader finds out early on that Rosemary’s father is a psychologist and this actually shapes the story in a big way. It seems as though having this career made the children’s growing up a lot more difficult.
Fowler allows you to grow up with Rosemary, follow her to college and into adult life. The reader learns about her brother leaving, her sister disappearing and her fairly ordinary college experience. We only hear her side of things and as she says, this might not be very reliable. I think there would have been scope to hear from other characters but I like the link with psychology and memory that seems so important to the story.
I really loved this book. I didn’t have much hope for it but the twist is what makes it so endearing. An absolute must read.