Reviews for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Booklist Reviews 2013 May #1
*Starred Review* As a girl in Indiana, Rosemary, Fowler's breathtakingly droll 22-year-old narrator, felt that she and Fern were not only sisters but also twins. So she was devastated when Fern disappeared. Then her older brother, Lowell, also vanished. Rosemary is now prolonging her college studies in California, unsure of what to make of her life. Enter tempestuous and sexy Harlow, a very dangerous friend who forces Rosemary to confront her past. We then learn that Rosemary's father is a psychology professor, her mother a nonpracticing scientist, and Fern a chimpanzee. Fowler, author of the best-selling The Jane Austen Book Club (2004), vigorously and astutely explores the profound consequences of this unusual family configuration in sustained flashbacks. Smart and frolicsome Fern believes she is human, while Rosemary, unconsciously mirroring Fern, is instantly tagged "monkey girl" at school. Fern, Rosemary, and Lowell all end up traumatized after they are abruptly separated. As Rosemary--lonely, unmoored, and caustically funny--ponders the mutability of memories, the similarities and differences between the minds of humans and chimps, and the treatment of research animals, Fowler slowly and dramatically reveals Fern and Lowell's heartbreaking yet instructive fates. Piquant humor, refulgent language, a canny plot rooted in real-life experiences, an irresistible narrator, threshing insights, and tender emotions--Fowler has outdone herself in this deeply inquisitive, cage-rattling novel. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #2
What is the boundary between human and animal beings and what happens when that boundary is blurred are two of many questions raised in Fowler's provocative sixth novel (The Jane Austen Book Club, 2004, etc.), the narration of a young woman grieving over her lost sister, who happens to be a chimpanzee. Rosemary recounts her family history at first haltingly and then with increasingly articulate passion. In 1996, she is a troubled student at U.C. Davis who rarely speaks out loud. She thinks as little as possible about her childhood and the two siblings no longer part of her family. But during a Thanksgiving visit home to Bloomington, Ind., where her father is a psychology professor, that past resurfaces. Rosemary recalls her distress as a 5-year-old when she returned from visiting her grandparents to find her family living in a new house and her sister Fern gone. Denying any memory of why Fern disappeared, she claims to remember only the aftermath: her mother's breakdown; her father's withdrawal; her older brother Lowell's accelerating anger until he left the family at 18 to find Fern and become an animal rights activist/terrorist; her own continuing inability to fit in with human peers. Gradually, Rosemary acknowledges an idyllic earlier childhood when she and Fern were inseparable playmates on a farm, their intact family shared with psych grad students. By waiting to clarify that Fern was a chimpanzee, Rosemary challenges readers to rethink concepts of kinship and selfhood; for Rosemary and Lowell, Fern was and will always be a sister, not an experiment in raising a chimpanzee with human children. And when, after 10 years of silence, Lowell shows up in Davis to describe Fern's current living conditions, he shakes free more memories for Rosemary of her sibling relationship with Fern, the superior twin she loved, envied and sometimes resented. Readers will forgive Fowler's occasional didacticism about animal experimentation since Rosemary's voice--vulnerable, angry, shockingly honest--is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible. A fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 December #1

In this eye-opener from New York Times best-selling author Fowler, Rosemary Cooke narrates the story of her family, paying special attention to sister Fern, who just happens to have been a chimpanzee. With a reading group guide.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #1

Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club) has written a strong, unsettling novel that draws on true accounts of animal behaviorists raising chimps with infant children. Narrator Rosemary Cooke, now nearing 40, tells a heartbreaking story of her family and a pivotal event that has haunted her all her life. When Rosemary was a month old, her psychologist father brought a three-month-old chimp named Fern into the family to be raised as a sibling to Rosemary and her older brother, Lowell. This experiment, complete with interns moving in to record their observations, comes to an abrupt halt when Rosemary is five. Fern simply disappears, and Rosemary finds the loss of her simian playmate emotionally devastating. Rosemary struggles to understand and to accept that, innocent mistake or not, her actions were possibly responsible for Fern's being sent away. Taunted at school by the nickname "monkey girl" and later distressed by the sudden disappearance of Lowell, on the lam from the FBI, Rosemary fights her demons to alleviate the damage. VERDICT Fowler explores the depths of human emotions and delivers a tragic love story that captures our hearts. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/12.]--Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
On the face of it, Fowler's protagonist--Rosemary, a girl whose family adopted and raised for several years a chimpanzee alongside their human children as a psychological experiment--is what sets this book apart. Yet what really marks this unusual novel is the cryptic voice of Rosemary, a classic unreliable narrator who will challenge and provoke readers as she attempts to piece together the events of her childhood, determine just what part she had in the sudden disappearance of her "sister," Fern, and make sense of who she is now. Memory and its reconstruction, loss, and guilt are all themes in this complex and compelling title. (LJ 6/1/13)--MD (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 April #4

It's worth the trouble to avoid spoilers, including the ones on the back cover, for Fowler's marvelous new novel; let her introduce the troubled Cooke family before she springs the jaw-dropping surprise at the heart of the story. Youngest daughter Rosemary is a college student acting on dangerous impulses; her first connection with wild-child Harlow lands the two in jail. Rosemary and the FBI are both on the lookout for her brother Lowell, who ran away after their sister Fern vanished. Rosemary won't say right away what it was that left their mother in a crippling depression and their psychology professor father a bitter drunk, but she has good reasons for keeping quiet; what happens to Fern is completely shattering, reshaping the life of every member of the family. In the end, when Rosemary's mother tells her, "I wanted you to have an extraordinary life," it feels like a fairy-tale curse. But Rosemary's experience isn't only heartbreak; it's a fascinating basis for insight into memory, the mind, and human development. Even in her most broken moments, Rosemary knows she knows things that no one else can know about what it means to be a sister, and a human being. Fowler's (The Jane Austen Book Club) great accomplishment is not just that she takes the standard story of a family and makes it larger, but that the new space she's created demands exploration. Agent: Wendy Weil, the Wendy Weil Agency. (June)

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