We are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Author(s): Karen Joy Fowler

Fiction - Contemporary

Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award

One of the New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2013
Named by The Christian Science Monitor as one of the top 15 works of fiction


The New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club introduces a middle-class American family, ordinary in every way but one...


Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. "I was raised with a chimpanzee," she explains. "I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren't thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern's expulsion...she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister." As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.


In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler weaves her most accomplished work to date--a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.


"A gripping, big-hearted book...through the tender voice of her protagonist, Fowler has a lot to say about family, memory, language, science, and indeed the question of what constitutes a human being."--Khaled Hosseini

Rosemary's carefree childhood is torn apart by the disappearances of, first, her sister and then, later, her brother. As an adult she drifts through college, no goal in sight. The reappearance of her brother, a wanted criminal, sparks memories of Rosemary's childhood, but can she trust them or is there a darker past she is hiding from herself? This novel brought out really mixed emotions from me. I found myself depressed, entertained, disgusted and amused in turns, and never quite knowing what the next chapter would bring. I was very interested in the parts about memories. Can we trust our own memories, or are they malleable and subject to change as we age?  An emotionally charged and fascinating read. - Lucy

Fowler's book is a triumph. In the wrong hands this concept would have fallen flat on its face, but Fowler's skill makes this a measured and assured tale. This is the story of family which is fragmented and damaged by loss. Rosemary is a product of an experiment that has left her withdrawn and secretive, unable to face her past. As she moves towards independence her past catches up with her and she is forced to face the loss of her twin sister and the disappearance of her older brother. Her childhood is not quite what one would expect. Fowler reveals truths carefully, with sparking humour and searing honesty. A compelling and thoughtful read. -Stella

A unique and surprising read from this year’s Man Booker Prize short-list. It’s difficult to sum up without giving anything away, but it has a lot to do with psychology, especially child psychology, identity and family dynamics. This was unlike anything I’ve read before and I’d highly recommend it. Avoid spoilers for maximum effect. - Holly


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Product Information

By the author of worldwide bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club: you can't choose your family, but they can make choices for you. Big, life-defining choices. Winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

One of the New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2013 and named by The Christian Science Monitor as one of the top 15 works of fiction

2014 Man Booker Prize short list.

'This is a funny, stingingly smart, and heartbreaking book. Among other things, it's about love, family, loss, and secrets; the acquisition and the loss of language. It's also about two sisters, Rosemary and Fern, who are unlike any other sisters you've ever met before.'—Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Pretty Monsters

'A strong, unsettling novel . . . Fowler explores the depths of human emotions and delivers a tragic love story that captures our hearts.'—Library Journal 

'This unforgettable novel is a dark and beautiful journey into the heart of a family,   an exploration of the meanings of memory, a study of what it means to be 'human.'  In the end the book doesn't just break your heart; it takes your heart and won't give it back.'—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler's previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season.Fowler's short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn't See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. We are all Completely Beside Ourselves won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Fowler and her husband, who have two grown children and five grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California.

General Fields

  • : 9781846689666
  • : Serpent's Tail Limited
  • : Serpent's Tail Limited
  • : May 2014
  • : 198mm X 129mm X 21mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Karen Joy Fowler
  • : Paperback
  • : Main
  • : en
  • : 813.6
  • : 336
  • : FC