Book Review

We are All Completely Besides Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, this novel tells the story of a typical American family – Mom and Dad, and siblings Lowell, Fern, and Rosemary.  Family dynamics are upended when the adopted member of the family is given away when Rosemary is only five, causing upheavals,  divided loyalties, and a series of plot twists that kept me turning the pages as I followed the lives of this unique and conflicted unit.  In addition to its depth of characterization, the narrative voice is fantastic —by turns funny, wise, and poignant.  I attended the University of Oklahoma and actually knew some people who participated in the type of academic study featured in this novel, which made it even more fascinating. I cannot read the last few paragraphs at the end without tearing up, and wishing I had my own “red poker chip.”

A favorite passage: “My mother reads us that old fairy tale in which one sister (the older) speaks in toads and snakes and the other (the younger) in flowers and jewels, and this is the image it conjured for me, this scene from this movie, where my mother puts her hand into my mouth and pulls out a diamond.”