Wednesday, 10 June 2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

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    This truly is a marmite book, judging from reviews on Amazon, but never let that colour my judgement (or yours!).  It is a decidedly odd read, but compelling nonetheless.  If you decide to read it, I wonder if you will feel the same. 
    Rosemary is going to tell you the story of her family.  Her sister Fern, her brother Lowell, and her mother and father.  She's going to tell you how her sister disappeared when she was five years old, and how Lowell walked out of the family home in his last year at high school and just never came back.
    I want to tell you why, but for readers who are going to read this and don't know about the twist revealed about a quarter of the way through the book, I will keep silent on the subject.  The trauma of all their lives is explored by Rosemary, who has never felt complete since the disappearance of Fern.  And at college, when Lowell appears back in her life for just 24 hours, she realises that she is not, and can never be like most of the population.
    The time frame jumps about a bit - after all, the first line is "So the middle of my story comes in the winter of 1996" - but it wasn't hard to follow her thought processes.  I found the loss of both her sister and her brother heartbreaking, although not in the way a bereavement might do; and I was sad for her inability to make friends.  Let Rosemary tell you about her odd and extraordinary life.
    WARNING!  Do not read the back of the book (acknowledgements, book group guidance etc.) at all if you do not know the subject matter before you start.... in fact, leave it till afterwards even if you do - but do read all those pages afterwards.  Illuminating!