We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was given to me as part of the Nashville Reads program. I’m supposed to take it, read it, and then pass it on. So far, I’ve taken it and read it. I’m not so sure about step three though. The writing is such a perfect dance of chit-chat, irreverence, and braininess, it had me in literary utopia, and I’m tempted to hoard it.
The author, Karen Joy Fowler, has created a fascinating protagonist who appeals to every reader’s sense of not quite fitting in. Rosemary Cooke has an unconventional ‒ well, un-human ‒ sister. She tells how her father, a professor of psychology, brought home an infant chimpanzee, Fern, to be raised alongside her as her twin in the 1970s, when such things were trendy and not yet understood to be folly. The primary focus of his research was comparative language development, but the ultimate results went far beyond the plan when, at five years old, Fern became unmanageable and was taken away.
|Adult female chimpanzee |
The repercussions continue into Rosemary’s young adulthood when she meets Harlow, a reckless fellow student who is arguably chimp-like in her disregard for normal human graces. Rosemary maintains a friendship with Harlow despite the chaos it incites. To anyone else, Rosemary’s tolerance of Harlow seems inexplicable, but the unstated conclusion is glaring: Harlow replaces Fern. But Rosemary pines for her brother as much as for Fern, and when Lowell makes an unexpected visit, he and Harlow form an even more fateful connection, while Rosemary struggles to process it all.
|Karen Joy Fowler|
Don’t you wish I were passing it on to you?