We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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
Publisher: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2013.
ISBN: 9780399162091
Branch Call Number: FOWLER K
Characteristics: 310 pages ; 22 cm.


Featured Blogs and Events

Hope for Social Justice

I am hopeful that this 4th of July will inspire more than just a feeling of patriotism or nationalism. I am hopeful that it will instead encourage hope for social justice and move away from a nationalism that leans dangerously toward prejudice and injustices—especially during this national holiday. I offer the books highlighted here as powerful tools for instilling hope to energize us towards… (more)

From Library Staff

2014 Winner; an emotional, yet funny tale of a girl who grew up with a chimpanzee she believed to be her sister. Fowler looks at family life in America and how we confront our pasts.

Rosemary grew up with a chimpanzee as a sister until she was removed from the family. Karen Joy Fowler’s work questions our depiction of family, memory, and even humanity itself.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Sep 07, 2020

A lovely book full of cynical truths and poignant reflections. The sister twist is odd at
first but ultimately rewarding as it is explored and resolved. Working through grief over family issues would seem to be a non-starter for good reading, but this book keeps the reader engaged as the protagonist comes to grip with it all in an altogether back and forth, but engaging, manner. I would encourage the reader to stick with it for the reward.

Jul 04, 2020

Confession: I never would have read Karen Joy Fowler if this book had not seemed like the best option for the summer reading program requirement of an Indianapolis book. Another confession: I am not what most people would consider an animal lover. Without revealing too much about the book for those who haven't read it, I will say that this book affected me in a way that I didn't think possible. The writing was smart, the plot riveting, the characters complex, the detail perfect. I have a new favorite writer, alongside the likes of Mary Doria Russell. Thank you, Indianapolis Library, for this gift.

alleycat Mar 06, 2020

Love love love. Read to the last page - it will move you in a big way.

Jan 21, 2020

Gave to Beth.

Nov 19, 2019

Contrived. Forced. Really uninteresting. Bland.

Aug 03, 2019

A n unconventional coming of age story. I was struck by how the main character has a unique early childhood that weirdly resonated with my own. I don't know how Karen Joy Fowler did it. In a way, this is a novel about how our earliest childhood, even if we don't remember it (especially if we don't remember it?) shapes the adult we become.

Jul 13, 2019

What a terrific read! If only I could find more books with this level of creativity and humanity.

Apr 05, 2019

Fowler has an intriguing topic. And a wisecracking verbal style, antic characters and events, and starting the narrative "in the middle" while delaying revelations that are critical for the plot did engage me at the outset. However, all three of these characteristics of the book were so unrelenting and excessive -- so forced -- that they started wearing on my patience about mid-book. Very interesting but not completely satisfying.

ArapahoeStaff26 Jan 26, 2018

Karen Joy Fowler is such a good writer! This book has wonderful characters and plot and raises important moral questions.

Aug 23, 2017

Great writing, big questions...just what you'd expect from a Booker finalist. A masterful revealing of the narrator's family story and how an experiment on an animal left lasting affects on the whole family. The novel compliments Colin McAdam's A Beautiful Truth (2013) which tells a version of this story from another point of view. Then there is Yann Martel's The High Mountains of Portugal (2016). All grapple with the big important question: what does it mean to be human.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at LPL

To Top