Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the best novel I’ve read this year, possibly the best I’ve read in the past three years. It’s also an incredibly difficult book to review, because of spoilers. So I’m going to say as much as I can in 500 words, including the vague review I left on Goodreads while not giving everything away. Here’s what I can say about this book without giving anything away. It does start slowly, but don’t let that put you off. My preference for storytelling is small-scale, exploring the relationships between the characters. Yes, Game of Thrones is fun, but its scale is so big that you wonder if any of the main characters are even going to talk to each other again. Jane the Virgin is full of shenanigans and crime syndicates that include plastic surgeons to change criminals’ faces, but it’s a show about family. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is also a story about family.

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every once in a while you read a book that you can’t stop reading. Okay, that happens a lot, but this book is different. I was warned before I began reading that it starts slowly, but once you’re a third of the way in (which may seem like too much for some people), you can’t stop. And I couldn’t. This is one of the best books I’ve read in such a long time that I can’t even think of anything that comes close right now. This is a story about a family and psychology, which may not seem that interesting, but it’s so much more than that. Fowler draws on her experience of growing up with a psychologist as a parent, and even though this is a work of fiction, it’s incredibly personal, and I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

I started reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves about a week ago, and I’ll admit that the first 50 or so pages weren’t particularly interesting. Once you’ll get to part three however, you don’t want to stop. I brought the book down with me to the television to read while the football was on (the only reason I wasn’t in my room is because it was the Grand Final), and by halfway through the second quarter I was hooked. I didn’t even stop reading the book until 7pm, when I finished it and also because I had gotten quite hungry by that point. That’s how good it was. As a person who has two siblings, I really enjoyed reading about those relationships, which felt real in that they reflected my own experiences emotionally. Some of the subject matter is difficult to stomach – Fowler doesn’t shy away from describing the brutal truths of the story, and she should be commended for that. There are people who don’t like this novel, and that’s okay. I don’t understand why (I don’t give out five star ratings easily), but I respect their opinion. The review I agree most with is the first one on the Goodreads page for the book, which says “I recommend this for people who like novels.” Nothing else needs to be said.


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