Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler


Genres: Contemporary

Main themes: Family, Psychology

Rating: 4 stars

I’m conflicted about how to write this review! I feel that me knowing so little about the story is what actually enhanced my reading experience, so I don’t want to give anything away. I also think it was what the author intended; Fowler cleverly told the events in a certain way and withheld information because she didn’t want readers to form any prejudgements about the characters and their relationships. Instead she wanted us to view them not only through the eyes of the protagonist, but for who and what they were. So here goes!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves begins in the middle of Rosemary Cooke’s story. When she was younger and had a lot to say but not enough time to say it, her father would tell her to “start in the middle,” and so that’s exactly what she does. At college and very different to what she was like as a child, we learn that Rosemary has an older brother, Lowell who she hasn’t seen for 10 years and a sister, Fern who disappeared from her life when she was just 5 years old. The absence of her siblings who she loves immensely has clearly had a huge impact on Rosemary’s life and so bit by bit, we transport back to Rosemary’s beginning so that she and readers are able to understand the middle and end to her story.

Admittedly, for the first 50 pages or so I had no idea what to make of the characters, or the direction with which the story was going. For example, there’s a scene in the cafeteria where a girl becomes angry at her boyfriend and begins to damage everything in sight and the way Rosemary responds to this left me feeling completely clueless. But the more I read and with the more that was revealed, everything started to click in place and the cleverness with which Fowler told the story really began to shine through.

All of it really, was so impressively written. Along the way small pieces of Rosemary’s story was put together and it was enough to make you want to read on until the end. I also really liked how unique the story was. I don’t know if this is true for anyone else but whenever I come across a book about some mysterious family occurrence or secret, I usually think ‘oh I bet someone died but it’s been kept a secret for years’ or ‘there was some sort of accident but it was kept hush hush to protect a loved one’ but I can assure you that this novel doesn’t have any cliché storylines. I was both surprised and intrigued by the events of the story.

My favourite thing about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was how well Fowler was able to capture the essence of familial relationships, especially the one between siblings. It was very much central to the storyline of this novel and because it was so raw and honest, I think that’s what made it quite touching for me. Also, it somehow felt a little nostalgic, like in the opening when Rosemary described an old home video or when she talked about playing cards with her brother as a child. I think this made it easier for the audience to be able to relate to the characters and their relationships.

Another favourite thing was how much psychology was involved! Rosemary’s father is a psychologist and so throughout she ends up mentioning various research and theories, so that was quite enjoyable to read.

Overall, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was an analytical, amusing and distinctive novel. It introduced me to a whole new world, prompting me to think outside the box and to think about the fundamentals of relationships. It even pushed me to evaluate my personal morals and think about issues I’ve never given much thought to, and to view some of the psychological research that I’m so familiar with, in a whole new light.

If you’ve read this novel, let me know what you thought of it! I would love to discuss the events of the story in much more detail and see how others felt about it.


2 thoughts on “Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

  1. I am really intrigued by Fowler’s book now, thanks to your excellent review! It sure sounds like some very interesting family dynamics play out in this novel. As a longtime psychology buff, I can see that I will be fascinated by this one! I’m adding it to my Goodreads shelves. Thanks for sharing!! : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow I’m so happy to hear you say that, thank you! That’s definitely the case with the family dynamics and is what keeps you curious and wanting to read on. I even found myself looking up some of the research mentioned, I was that engrossed with the story so I really hope you find the novel just as engaging! It’s great to hear that you’re adding it to your shelves, I really hope you’ll enjoy it. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, you’ve really made my day! Take care 🙂


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