I have been struggling with what to say about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which was my April book club selection and the Nashville All-City Read as well. Although I’m glad I read it, and our book club discussion was terrific, I can only recommend this novel if:
- You are a fan of Karen Joy Fowler (Author of The Jane Austen Book Club)
- You appreciate a clever premise (Spoiler alert-the sister is a chimp)
- You like to discuss the latest thing (It was after all The Nashville All-City Read)
- Your book club is looking for a stimulating conversation (Lots to discuss)
- You are not squeamish about animal research (TMI)
As most of you now know, the book is about two sisters, Rose and Fern. That Fern is a chimp is not revealed until page 70. In those first pages, it is hard to discern which sister is the chimp, a deliberate ploy on Fowler’s part. (One of the members of my book club initially thought Rose was the chimp.)
In any event, the raising-a-chimp-with-human-child experiment did not go well. The details of the doomed experiment are revealed in a series of flashbacks by Rose now a confused and cleverly caustic college student.
My lack of enthusiasm for the book does not extend to Karen Joy Fowler herself who was completely charming and entertaining in her recent Nashville appearance. Learning about her childhood as the daughter of scientist, her comments on how she came to write the book, and the difficulty she has had letting it go greatly enhanced our book club’s discussion. Do listen to the Library’s recording of her presentation.
(For a different perspective, read my friend Jennifer Puryear’s more favorable review on her blog Bacon on The Bookshelf)