Book Review: We Are Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

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‘In most families, there is a favourite child…I was our mother’s favourite child’

The story follows Rosemary throughout her life, although on her father’s advice it’s best to start with the middle of the story, and so she does. In the middle of the story it’s 1996 and Rosemary is in college, it’s been years since her sister Fern disappeared completely and she’s done her best to make sure no one even finds out she existed. Fern is not spoken about at home, no pictures hang on the wall, but Rosemary is haunted by the sister she just can’t forget and after being given her mother’s journals she is reminded that she can never really escape her past.

I was looking forward to reading this one because it had a lot of hype surrounding it. The quotes on the front were saying how ‘irresistible’ it was and that the twist was the ‘best in years’. Now I’m a sucker for a good twist and I won’t say that it’s a bad one,it’s just not great. The twist takes over the whole novel, meaning that not only is it hard to review but it’s also kind of boring. There is also the issue of how the novel weaves in and out of different times, at points it’s hard to remember what point of the story it is and where the characters are at this point.

There does seem to be an underlying ethical issue which kind of takes over the entire book, it’s an interesting argument and I definitely think twice about my shopping habits as a result of reading it, but it gets a little boring after a while. While I agree with the idea that is being put across, I also got bored of this ethical issue being shoved in my face constantly while I was trying to read and get involved with the characters.

I don’t know if it’s intentional but Fowler has made a lot of the characters distant and unloveable. From the beginning there was something I didn’t like about the family dynamic and something I really didn’t trust about Rosemary. The descriptions of her father went from one extreme to the other at one point he is a kind and caring man, the other he’s very strange and easy to hate. I felt like I couldn’t relate to any of the characters that much, which is upsetting because they were well written.

I’ve given this three stars ***, although it wasn’t badly written the ‘twists and turns’ were all just very underwhelming. At times it felt like the novel was building to something fantastic only to be let down, it seemed to me that by the end of the novel Fowler has just run out of steam and come up with a safe ending, which was quite boring to me. I don’t think this was a book for me but I know other people who I think would enjoy it, it’s possibly because when I read the word ‘twist’ I think it’s going to be earth shattering, which unfortunately this twist was not.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: We Are Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

  1. As a psychology student all it did was annoy me that I didn’t work out for myself the ‘twist’! It’s so obvious as soon as you find out. I enjoyed it, but like you I didn’t go a bundle on it as I’d hoped I would.

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