Had I just noticed this book in the bookstore or library I would have walked right on passed. The title did not grab me at all, in fact it had quite the opposite effect, making me think this is absolutely not a book for me. This is what my thinking would have been except for the fact that I had an interesting conversation with a woman working in a bookstore while I was looking for a book for Mum. Then someone at bookclub mentioned we should consider it and it got me curious. What was this book with the terrible title all about and what was making it crop up in conversation here and there? So in the same month as we read The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden, we also read this one, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. They were both a break of the heavy going war books we’d be stuck on…. I think this was my fault, I am accidentally a magnet to war books at the moment. But while I only have gave the King of Sweden book a two stars, this one got five out of five (or perhaps four and a half if that was a option of Goodreads, damn you with your only full star capacity, I want halves!). The bookstore woman told me nothing except that it was intriguing and well worth picking “but anything else would give away the story” and I’m going to feed you the same line. Just trust me and pick it up, you’ll thank me for not letting the cat out of the bag!
I will say that the main character Rosemary Cooke is a university student who has a difficult relationship with her parents and has two missing siblings. From there you’ll have to figure the rest out for yourself.
What makes this book completely not-put-downable is it’s structure, it is not in any way linear. Rosemary – who narrates the story – starts in the middle, then goes both forwards and backwards in various parts, giving you the end of the beginning, the beginning of the end and finally the beginning and the end. It’s a real journey through time and adds suspense and mystery to the story. The language is totally accessible and the writing is witty and engaging. Fowler writes of family dynamics and the avoidance of difficult conversations that often happen in families with such clarity and humour you wonder how close she was to what she is writing about.
In our bookclub discussion we got onto the topic of Rosemary’s friend Harlow, she is quite the conundrum. I though her character played a pivotal role in revealing the true character of Rosemary, but she was somewhat annoying. My only criticism was the neatly tied up ending, I thought a messier version would have been closer to reality, but perhaps that’s just my aversion to happy endings? Either way, add this to your must-read list and put aside a weekend because you won’t be doing anything else!