52 Books in 52 Weeks, Week 30: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for a Good Reason

This week's read for 52 books in 52 weeks was a real treasure: Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

I'll admit that at week 30 I am sometimes questioning why I am doing this project. While I certainly have read some good books, I've also had to struggle through many of them and the relentless pace of it (not having to read a book a week -- I've always done at least that -- but having to read something that's not really my choice and review it) sometimes wears me down. But then I read something like last week's Joyland by Stephen King or The Orphan Sisters by Christina Baker Kline and it all seems worth it.

But also, while I've enjoyed those books immensely, where I'm finding some real gems are in my wildcard picks. Books like The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Myers, The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison and this week's read, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

This particular book is a really hard one to summarize, because to summarize gives away the central twist of the story. I had read reviews (she's received some real glowing ones, including by Barbara Kingsolver in the New York Times) that gave away this twist before I read the book and, as I'm about to give a complete endorsement, it obviously didn't affect my enjoyment of it. But still, I'm left wondering, if I hadn't known, would I have enjoyed the book more, or less?

So I think I'll leave the twist out and just give you the back cover description:

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. "I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee," she tells us. "It's never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren't thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern's expulsion, I'd scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister."

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she's managed to block a lot of memories. She's smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, "Rosemary" truly is for remembrance.

This book was, truly, a delight to read. Fowler perfectly captures the voice of the central character, Rosie, a college student with sharp edges and a past she wants to hide. And one of the central premises of the novel -- that our memories deceive us in ways that make our lives easier to handle -- is explored in a unique way (there I am, banging up against that twist again!) This book both perfectly satisfied and left me wanting more, and so, I can't wait to see what Fowler comes up with next (no pressure, though, of course! Take all the time you need!) and I highly recommend this in the meantime.

Which brings us to week 31, where I've gone back to the #1 New York Times bestseller, which is J.K. Rowling's, I mean Robert Galbraith's, The Cuckoo's Calling. And pseudonym or no, I'm curious to read it.

Hope you are too.

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