• Michael Braccia

Book Review: Karen Joy Fowler 'We are all completely beside ourselves'

Updated: Aug 4, 2019


Karen Joy Fowler constructs a fictional story partly based on personal experience of living with a family steeped in psychology. I will avoid spoilers, but suffice to say you are in for a surprise. The narrator talks in detail about life with her sister, in particular, and the family and school life. Throughout the novel, Karen provides many opportunities for us to re-evaluate how, as humans, we think. Why do we think the way we do? What is thought?

An engaging, touching story that encourages us to think, and to consider how we experience the past as individuals. This is central to the book. Fowler brings in the concept of loneliness. Even when surrounded by people at home, school, college or work, we can still feel lonely. Her main character and narrator, Rosemary, says:

“It’s hard to overstate how lonely I was. Let me just repeat that I’d once gone, in a matter of days, from a childhood where I was never alone to this prolonged silent only-ness”.

This is a novel for those of us who want to be challenged and educated, not just entertained. I’ll leave you with a quote from the novel. Food for thought:

“An oft-told story is like a photograph in an album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture”.

A very apt title: ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’.

Michael Braccia


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