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Book 183: We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Book 183: We are All Completely Beside Ourselves.
Author: Karen Joy Fowler, 2014.
Genre: Period Fiction/Contemporary. Family Drama. Coming of Age. Activism.
Other Details: ebook. 337 pages.

Rosemary's young, just at college, and she's decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we're not going to tell you too much either: you'll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life. There's something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. So now she's telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice. It's funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This novel was my favourite of the 2014 Man Booker short-list. It is well-written, thought-provoking, funny in places and so sad in others. I won't say anything about the plot because it is a novel that as the synopsis suggests is best read cold without spoilers. The story is set from the mid-70s to the mid-90s when Rosemary's is in college though as it is told in retrospect by Rosemary we do learn of how things turn out into the 21st century. There is no ambiguity in the tale, just good story-telling and memorable characters.

It was also the favourite of our Man Booker Shadowing Group by a wide margin. However, we all agreed that it felt too popular and accessible to win the Man Booker and this proved true. Still, award or not it was a great novel exploring important themes.
Tags: bildungsroman/coming of age, contemporary, nyt bestseller, period fiction (20th century), politics
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