Karen Joy Fowler – We are all completely beside ourselves

karen joy fowler

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, a review in the New York Times Book Review stating that this is “a novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get”, and a quote by one of my favorite authors, Ruth Ozeki, saying “it’s been years since I’ve felt so passionate about a book”. I hope you can understand that there was no way in which I could walk away from the bookstore without buying We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. And this book also provides me with a new experiment. Writing a review without revealing the plot. Challenging, since the plot starts being revealed from page 77 onwards, continuing until the book ends on page 308. So, here we go…

I must say, it was very easy to get into the flow of the story. A good book always has that quality, if you ask me. The pages fully absorb your attention and you forget the world around you. The story unfolds in a particular way. It is not told starting from the beginning, to the middle, and doesn’t finish with ‘the end’. And all of this is done without confusing you. That is amazingly difficult and super well done. You know those books where you just have to leaf through the book to find out what crucial information you forgot somewhere along the way? I dislike those very strongly. Not the case with this book!

In general I can say, the book is about a family. A very special family. Not in a magical way, or an out-of-this-world way. The plot of the book first sounded a little bit crazy to me. But the more you read, the more curious it made me. I might even tell you that it got me to research a little bit more about this ‘plot’ on the internet, because it is very interesting in a broad sense. Based on true facts, built around personal experiences from the author and built up further by scientific research.

Apart from the interesting and emotional plot, the book awakens discussions on fundamental topics such as where being a human starts and ends, if memories we collect throughout the years and we think we remember, are always correct or true in the end. About right and wrong, villains and heroes. It makes you think about your own life. A treat I always love in a book.

One question, which is provided to you at the end of the book, is if it matters to us that we know the plot before we begin reading the book, if this might influence our opinion about the story. I don’t want to spoil this experiment for you. For me, the story would not have been ruined per se by having known the plot in advance. But not knowing the plot and truly being surprised by it gave reading the book an extra dimension. You might feel a bit stupid (as I did) for not noticing particular clues. So please, do let me know what you think after you’ve read the book. Or before, if you feel like you already have a strong opinion on this subject of course!

All in all, I can say this book surprised me and made me think about important aspects of life, about science and about growing up and brother- and sisterhood. I can definitely recommend it!

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