Profound message about the meaning of being human


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a tremendous, unforgettable book. It’s about a family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary. An intelligent tale of an extraordinary family; the bonds between them, the mistakes people make and how families are a source of both joy and pain.

I find it hard to review – first, to avoid spoilers and second because it had such a profound emotional effect that I’m still reeling from it. This is Literature with a capital ‘L’ and also a page-turning, constantly surprising story.

It is terribly sad. It is beautifully written. It is funny. Yes, even when it is terribly sad, it’s also funny. The language is a delight. It is surprising, and packs a surprisingly strong emotional punch. When the key point of the story is revealed I just put the book down and bawled.

I don’t agree with some other readers that this is a vehicle to press an agenda. Rather, the so-called ‘agenda’ is a vehicle to carry a more profound message about the meaning of being human. About how the other in a relationship transforms us. About the ebb and flow of complicity, intimacy and separateness in a very close relationship, particularly with siblings. About how relationships in our early childhood make us who we are.

It is also a deeply moving exploration of families, grief and bereavement.

I can only suppose that those readers who give this novel one or two stars have never personally experienced the loss of a sibling. Good for them.


Find We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves on Amazon and at other bookstores.


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