We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves- Book Review

Not all 300+ page books are created equal.  Sometimes they feel like a chore.  Sometimes they take forever to finish.  Sometimes we abandon them.  But not Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.  It felt like a dream.  Within pages, I knew I was already sorry it was not longer.  That I would never want it to end.  I couldn’t stop reading.  I didn’t want to read anything else.  She had my undivided attention.

And that remained the case throughout the book.  I laughed.  I almost cried.  I laughed some more.

I loved her “start in the middle” technique.

I loved the surprise, though I won’t spoil it.  As I was thinking about reading this book, I would catch glimpses and whispers and hints of this “huge twist.”  I didn’t want to know; put my hands figuratively over my ears like “La La La La.”  I was glad I didn’t find out.  You shouldn’t either.  Don’t read anything else about it.  Just get the book and go.

The story and writing made the book for me, but I particularly enjoyed some of the language.  The words.  Big, good, “word lover” words.  See just a few in the vocabulary list below.

And the approaches to memory and time (my favorites):

“There are moments when history and memory seem like a mist, as if what really happened matters less than what should have happened.” (p. 28).  So true!

The idea of “false belief.”  A theory of the mind that accounts for actions driven by beliefs in conflict with reality.  Do we have that?

This statement: “In everyone’s life there are people who stay and people who go and people who are taken away against their will?” (p. 271).  Is this true?  I don’t know, but it’s interesting to consider.

I started and did not finish The Jane Austen Book Club, also by Fowler.  I’m not sure why I gave it up.  In Beside Ourselves, voice, writing, and story all came together for me.  But I liked it so much, I would give others of hers a try, and maybe even Jane Austen.  It was that good.

Sometimes we are completely beside ourselves.  Loved the chance to think about what it is to be human, what it is to be a being, what we may be doing wrong, particularly in our inability to see and appreciate that some who may seem different may not be that different at all.


estrus- a recurring period of sexual receptivity and fertility in many female mammals; heat.

ithyphallic- (especially of a statue of a deity or other carved figure) having an erect penis.

hathos- the pleasure derived from hating something

cartouche- a carved tablet or drawing representing a scroll with rolled-up ends, used ornamentally or bearing an inscription; Archaeology- an oval or oblong enclosing a group of Egyptian hieroglyphs, typically representing the name and title of a monarch.

anosognosia- an inability or refusal to recognize a defect or disorder that is clinically evident

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