Rosemary once was a child in a family with a sister, Fern, and a brother, Lowell. Now she's in college, palling around with a manic pixie dream girl named Harlow and trying not to think about the mysterious event that caused Fern to vanish and Lowell's life to go off the rails. The novel switches between Rosemary's childhood and adulthood as she comes to grips with whatever happened.

This novel has a possibly surprising plot twist about a fifth of the way in; I say possibly because I learned of it in a review, and there are other elements of the novel itself which may make it immediately evident. However, I will keep it a surprise for the benefit of those who don't want to be spoiled. I'll put it behind a cut.

Fowler is a highly skilled author whose books, unfortunately, never appeal to me anywhere near as much as they appeal to others. She always has intriguing premises and her novels always get rave reviews, so I keep checking them out. To date, I have never much liked any of them. Something about her prose style, characterization, and tone always strikes me as distant and chilly. This book was no exception. It involves a lot of potentially interesting and moving elements, but I found it dry and unsatisfying. However, I am in the minority in this, so you may well love this or any other of her books.

That being said, if you are at all sensitive to animal harm, avoid this book. It is centrally concerned with cruelty to animals, and contains multiple graphic depictions of it. (I didn't know this when I started, or I would not have read it.)

Great title, though.

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By Karen Joy Fowler We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Pen/Faulkner Award - Fiction)
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