We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

By Karen Joy Fowler,

Book cover of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Book description

The New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club introduces a middle-class American family that is ordinary in every way but one in this novel that won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I loved everything about this novel: the elements of surprise, the family dynamics, the character development, and the more significant issues—trauma, childhood, envy, animal cruelty, and activism.

In the first page, we learn that the narrator lost both her brother and her sister, so we suppose the novel will be about this double tragedy. It was admirable that the narrator didn’t tell us for so long that her sister was a chimp. I probably wouldn’t have cared as much if I had known earlier, as I never had a pet and never gave much thought to animals. By tricking me,…

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." So goes the great Anna Karenina quote by Tolstoy, and what lies at the center of the Cooke family unhappiness is as singular and surprising as it gets.

Narrator Rosemary Cooke reveals her extraordinary family secret in flashbacks interwoven with the present-day narrative. What elevated this book for me was the deep dive into the emotional life of Rosemary and her brother Lowell as they discover and then navigate the secret that destroyed their family.

The secret - which is the premise for this novel -…

Okay, this is a little bit of a cheat, as there’s no magical realism exactly in Karen Joy Fowler’s novel, but there’s certainly the uncanny. This story of two sisters separated during childhood trying to find each other in adulthood is wry and funny, but also immensely heartfelt and dramatic, and the twist at the halfway mark (which I won’t spoil for you!) makes this one a personal favourite. 

From Sophie's list on strange and unusual families.

Book cover of This Animal Body

Meredith Walters

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Neuroscience PhD student Frankie Conner has finally gotten her life together—she’s determined to discover the cause of her depression and find a cure for herself and everyone like her. But the first day of her program, she meets a group of talking animals who have an urgent message they refuse to share. And while the animals may not have Frankie’s exalted human brain, they know things she doesn’t, like what happened before she was adopted.

To prove she’s sane, Frankie investigates her forgotten past and conducts clandestine experiments. But just when she uncovers the truth, she has to make an impossible choice: betray the animals she’s fallen in love with—or give up her last chance at success and everything she thought she knew.

By Meredith Walters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Animal Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frankie Conner, first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley, is finally getting her life together. After multiple failures and several false starts, she's found her calling: become a neuroscientist, discover the cause of her depression and anxiety, and hopefully find a cure for herself and everyone like her.

But her first day of the program, Frankie meets a mysterious group of talking animals who claim to have an urgent message for her. The problem is, they're not willing to share it. Not yet. Not until she's ready.

While Frankie's new friends may not have her highly evolved, state-of-the-art, exalted human brain,…

One of the absolute joys of writing (and super annoying quirk to non-writer friends) is being able to see the writing or the narrative arc when you’re watching TV or a movie or reading a book. Everything eventually becomes a study of craft. 

But every once in a while, an author sets an arc that was (a) completely plausible and (b) that I didn’t see coming, and that’s magic. 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves did exactly that. I highly recommend not even reading the description, just start reading.

From Kristin's list on dysfunctional fiction families to love.

There’s something odd about Rosemary, and about her brother and sister, who she’s no longer in touch with. What exactly went on in this profoundly disturbed family is gradually revealed. There are deep, dark, and important themes here, wrapped up in a funny and engaging story. I’m saying no more, because the less you know the better!

From Roz's list on both dark and funny.

I wouldn’t dare spoil what makes the sisters in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves so special. You have to come upon it in the course of reading this absolutely perfect novel. But in the deepest, best, hardest, most unusual way, this is a novel about sisters – sisters in childhood, sisters as they grow, sisters as they become very different sorts of adults and make their way in the world together and apart.

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