Books

Book Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

I found this book, written by Karen Joy Fowler, through a recommendation on Amazon.  I believe I was reviewing The Signature of All Things when this popped up as a “you might also like…” So, trusting their logarithms and other statistical points I know nothing about, I chose to read it.  I am truly, deeply surprised I finished it.  This book was a hot mess.  That it was compelling enough for me to see how it ended is a plus in its favor, but I really have nothing else very kind to say about this book.  Oddly enough, it does have high reviews on Amazon, from commercial reviewers, authors, and readers alike, but I just did not care for this book.

The narrator is pretentious.  In the first part of the book, she uses big words to throw off her young classmates.  Now, she’s supposed to be doing it to show us, the lowly reader, how she was part of psychological studies as a child, by her psychologist father.  But, the end result, I developed – rather quickly – a complete and total dislike of the narrator, Rosemary.  I also developed a similar dislike to her father, mother, and brother, but that was planned by the narrator.  Garner her more sympathy, and when the “real” poopoo comes out, she will be safe from your hatred.

The book moves as quickly through time and space as the TARDIS does (yes another not-so-subtle Doctor Who tie-in), but without as many points of reference.  I found myself lost as to whether we were “now” or “then.”  The fact that the narrator repeatedly says she does not know if she remembered this or if it was a dream or a fantasy added to the whole disjointed feeling, in a sort of “is it real or is it Memorex sort of way”.  Some reviewers said the book had subtle humor throughout, but the only humor offered is from Harlow, who is such a minor character, she does not appear as often as I would have liked.

Okay, but enough about why I did not like it.  The book is about Rosemary, who until the age of five, had a sister.  A sister who just happened to be a chimpanzee.  When Rosemary was five, her sister, Fern, unexpectedly is sent away.  The book revolves around the anguish the family felt afterwards, and continues to feel for many years.  Fern and Rosemary were part of a psychological study, that apparently was somewhat popular in the mid-twentieth century.  There are numerous mentions of psychologists and their articles/papers (which for the psychology student in me, was fascinating).

And that, my friends, is basically that. I truly did not like this book, kept reading it to see if it could redeem itself and because I was very curious to see how it could all be tied together.  On a five-star rating, this would earn a dismal two, and only my curiosity kept it from a “1-star”.  I rarely, rarely ever give anything lower than a three, and I very seldom even give a three.

Off to my next book, I am eyeballing Seating Arrangements, but I will not know for sure what I am reading next until I am halfway through.

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