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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves | [Karen Joy Fowler]

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

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."
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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times-best-selling 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.

©2012 Karen Joy Fowler (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What the Critics Say

  • 10 Best Audiobooks of 2013 (Salon)
  • "It's a story that requires a true performance from Cassidy, as Rosemary approaches and then shies away from the truth about her past. Cassidy makes the withholding of this information seem integral to the character rather than just a storytelling technique. A classic example of how a gifted narrator can enrich the audio version of a novel." (Laura Miller, Salon)

    “Cassidy's performance offers an electric combination of understatement and highly charged emotions.” (AudioFile)

    "You may find yourself on a beach or by a pool or just with some surplus time . . . Use it to read this goddamn book.” (Gawker)

    "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." (New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (245 )
5 star
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3.9 (224 )
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4.1 (226 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Amber Salt Lake City, UT, United States 10-04-13
    Amber Salt Lake City, UT, United States 10-04-13 Member Since 2013

    I read and listen to books. I drink tea. I sleep like a cat and wished I lived in Hawaii.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This was totally worth the credit."

    The title, "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves," sums the book up perfectly. This story is about a family being broken apart in the most unusual way. The story is narrated by Rosemary, and her view of how this tragedy affected herself and the other members of the family. Fowler is able to write this story as if the story had happened to her, as if she were Rosemary. I checked more than once to make sure that this wasn't a memoir because she made it seem so believable from the 1st person narrative. I don't want to reveal much more of the story because I think it might be more enjoyable the less the reader knows about it to begin with. This is a beautiful and sad story, one that pulled at my heartstrings. The book does start off in a strange place, in the middle of the story, but don't let that put you off because it doesn't take long for her to go back to the beginning of all that happened. I also really appreciated the ending. Book endings can be funny business sometimes and I feel that this one was just about right. This story resonated with me and is one of my better reads/listens of the year. I would have no problem recommending it to anyone.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 08-04-13
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 08-04-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Completely Beside Myself! Read This!"

    Wow. I'm completely beside myself. This book hooked me and delivered. It made me laugh, cry, and think. It taught me something new and changed my mind about some issues. It reminded me. It gave me hope.

    Fern and Rosemary, are two sisters who are separated. As sister separations tend to do, this act unhinged the family, but there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. I can't say more without spoiling it for you, so just trust me on this one.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Albany, NY, United States 11-21-13
    Barbara Albany, NY, United States 11-21-13 Member Since 2005

    Since taking my first creative writing class in 2008 the pleasure I used to get from reading has been greatly reduced. I notice things I never noticed before. That said, I think I rate books pretty generously. Anyone who actually manages to write a whole book and then get it published deserves an extra star.

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    "'Monkey-Girl' Finds Her Way Out of the Closet"

    I enjoyed this story of a woman who has had to come to terms with her very unusual upbringing; how it has affected her relationships with her parents and her brother, and her own ability to establish significant connections with other human beings. The author has managed to give each character depth, even the peripheral ones, and even the not-so-nice characters are sympathetic. Well-told.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pat C Salinas, CA 05-28-14
    Pat C Salinas, CA 05-28-14 Member Since 2005

    Proud owner of over 1500 downloaded audiobooks (fanatic?, addict? you decide :-)

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Animals unite!"

    This is one of the best books I've read/listened in the past year - which is more of a compliment than it might sound like because I read/listen to about 20 books a month. The story was gripping and the characters were sympathetic in both their strengths and failings. I know some people were bothered by the description of animal torture (blithely referred to in our culture as "research"). I was deeply affected myself but I do think it is something we all need to hear about. Like a character in the book says, we might vaguely know that this is going on but until we are made uncomfortable with it nothing will ever change. And really, it does need to change (IMHO).

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gilda Povolo Traverse City, MI 10-06-13
    Gilda Povolo Traverse City, MI 10-06-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The mysteries of families"
    Where does We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Unfortunately, I had heard an interview with the author about the book which provided a significant plot spoiler, but even knowing what I knew, I found the novel psychologically intriguing and suspenseful, as well as thought provoking. It verged on the didactic at times, but only to the extent that a central concern of the novel required it because it was integral to the characters.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Granville, MA, United States 09-09-13
    Susan Granville, MA, United States 09-09-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Easy to recommend."
    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the character - I loved her story - and enjoyed the progression. It started good and ended great.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna Renton, WA, United States 08-17-13
    Donna Renton, WA, United States 08-17-13 Member Since 2009
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    "This was a tough read for me."

    I was way into the book before I realized that Fern was not a mentally handicapped child! Then when we get into the gore of how animals are treated and how disposable they are (not that I don't know this) I no longer wanted to continue. Good for some not for me!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda A. Wright Tallahassee, FL United States 09-09-13
    Linda A. Wright Tallahassee, FL United States 09-09-13 Member Since 2009

    I'm a recovering librarian. Since I had a stroke in 2002 I have found reading print difficult. I am so grateful for audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Impressive"

    Not familiar with Karen Joy Fowler, I found the beginning to be unimpressive. There was something off about the central character and I couldn’t figure out what. It seemed unrealistic. Then when the narrator begins telling the missing parts from her early life I realized that the beginning was a brilliant portrait.

    The narrator of the book, Rosemarie, starts her book with the middle of her tale, then braids back and forth, threading episodes in her earlier years and later years. She explains each shift to the reader in a chatty conversational tone.

    In a way the structure echoes the complexity of the story. It is both beautifully crafted and provocative. This is a story that is not about an ordinary family, yet it is about commonality.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Snufu CA, United States 11-18-13
    Snufu CA, United States 11-18-13 Member Since 2012

    Lufagus

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    "Misleading & Manipulative"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Probably not. There are many needless descriptions of cruel experiments on animals. The flimsy "story" is an excuse for the author to rant about animal rights, and she undermines her cause by stacking the deck in her favor. There isn't much plot and the characters are thinly drawn. The nararrator is annoying and comes off like a lecturer rather than a storyteller.


    What was most disappointing about Karen Joy Fowler’s story?

    The author is kind of misleading. It starts off as a story about a troubled girl with family problems stemming from a missing sibling. None of the characters are very sympathetic and it was hard to care about anyone. The main character is abrasive and unreliable/deceptive. She makes a lot of academic references and name drops prominent scientists and researchers, so we know that she's supposed to be very very smart.

    By the middle of the book the story falters and the book turns into a long lecture about experiments on animals. The details seemed gratuitous--she could have made her point citing a few cases, rather than going on and on. It seemed like a cheap shock tactic.


    Any additional comments?

    Please warn readers about the many graphic descriptions of animal cruelty. If I had known about that I wouldn't have bought the book.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
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