This is a book that works best when you go in without knowing much. To fully explain the plot of Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is its own kind of spoiler. The plot is centered around a secret, or more accurately, around a reveal. I went into the book already knowing the “twist” that’s revealed about 80 pages into the book and I spent those pages going “aha. I see that hint. I know what’s going to happen.” I wonder how I would have felt about those pages if I read them cold.
Basically (very basically) the book is about Rosemary Cooke, the college-aged daughter of a scientist. As she tells us, she’s learned to skip the beginning and start in the middle of her stories. We hear a lot about her college life, her few friends, her strained relationship with her parents and only a few tantalizing hints about her childhood. We know as a kid, she never stopped yammering. As an adult, she’s enveloped herself in silence. We know she has two siblings, but that she’s the only one who isn’t behind bars. Her mother is a shell of her former self. Her father hides himself in a bottle of whiskey. And for some reason, Rosemary blames herself for her family’s disintegration. Slowly, Rosemary tells us more about her childhood as her past and present collide.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a wild ride, and I stayed up late to finish it, determined to get to the last of its mysteries. And while there were some things I didn’t like (some primary, yet undeveloped characters) I really cared about how the story would end. So skip all the other reviews-they love to drop spoilers-and pick up this strange, sweet story about the loss of innocence, family and the eventual renewal of bittersweet hope.