The first question you’ll ask when reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is, Why did Rosemary Cooke’s parents abandon her sister Fern at the age of 5?
And the second is, How did they get away with it?
You’ll get a pretty good answer on page 77, when a key plot point is revealed.
The New York Times review of this book revealed this secret, albeit with a spoiler alert upfront. But I’m going to keep you in the dark. I want you to read the book the way Fowler intended.
What I will tell you is that We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is an engaging, inventive story told by its narrator Rosemary in a sometimes confusing and deceptive way. Only gradually does she divulge the details of her family’s life over the past 40 years.
The father is a psychology professor at Indiana University who studies chimpanzees and can’t control his drinking; the mother, who could be loosely called his research assistant, becomes distant from her remaining children. Once Fern is gone, the parents leave the others in the dark about her fate. Rosemary’s older brother rebels by running away to join the world of militant animal-rights activism.
So we are left to sympathize with Rosemary. She carries physical and emotional scars from the loss of Fern, and from being thrown into her parents’ experiments in a most unorthodox way. In the end, Fowler leaves us with some hope, at least for Rosemary, her mother, and Fern, as they begin to reunite and reconcile.
Pick up the book from the library today. And no fair peeking at page 77.
About Carol Luers Eyman
Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.