BooksOfTheMoon

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

By Karen Joy Fowler

Rating: 4 stars

We meet our (first person) protagonist Rosemary at multiple points in her life in this novel, but the primary ‘now’ point is when she’s at college, in the mid ’90s, remembering things about her past, in particular the brother and sister who vanished from her life at different points during her childhood.

Rosemary starts her story in the middle, and then jumps around in time in a way that should be disconcerting, but I found worked remarkably well. Possibly because she always flags where and when she is, and even flags up when she hasn’t been altogether honest in past chapters. This is, to my mind, the best kind of unreliable narrator!

I’m finding this a difficult book to write about – it’s so unlike my normal reading material. It was recommended by a friend, and I’m glad that she did as I enjoyed it, but it’s still difficult to talk about, particularly so because to do so meaningfully requires spoiling a twist. Let’s just say that it’s a book about memory, and how it can deceive you; about family, relationships and what they mean and the different ways that they can hurt you; about truth and lies, especially lies to yourself, lies you repeat so often that you don’t know what the truth is any more and how memory can turn into lies, or, at best, “reported” memories, where you only remember the account of something, not the memory itself.

That’s an altogether unhelpful description of the book, but it’s warm, funny, sad and heartbreaking in places. It left me with a sense somewhere between melancholy and hope for the future. Definitely a book worth reading.

Book details

ISBN: 9781846689666
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Year of publication: 2013

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