Book Banter: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

besideTitle: We are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Author: Karen Joy Fowler

Length: ~300 pages

Genre: literacy fiction

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Rosemary Cooke was raised with her “sister,” a chimpanzee named Fern for the first part of her life as part of a research experiment. But when Fern is sent away, it has rippling consequences for the whole Cooke family for years to come.

Banter Points: This is a title from the 2016 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award National Winner and WOW. She deserves the award for sure.

Interestingly, while the back of the book does tell the reader about the connection with the chimpanzees, when I read it, I think I believed that to be metaphorical. Symbolic. She couldn’t possibly mean her sister was a chimpanzee. When that part of the plot was revealed, I was stunned. The chimp was real. Not a nickname, not a symbol. Real.

Fowler’s writing was beautiful. She crafted amazing sentences and I really was blown away. Rosemary and her family all struggle with the idea of success and failure and which things a person is remembered for. Fowler did an excellent job of running that theme through the novel in ways that were poignant without being heavy-handed.

Bummer Points: From reading the blurbs, Fowler’s other books are quite like this which is disappointing.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I will be pushing this book on people for sure. It’s definitely a top 10 pick for me this year.


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