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Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Sibling relationships are at the heart of many novels, with Little Women, My Family and Other Animals and The Cement Garden among the most memorable.

However, to that list we could add We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which brings a fresh, and surprising, approach to the themes of sibling affection and rivalry. Without giving away the twist, it is a relationship that is not what it initially seems.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the story of a young girl, Rosemary Cooke and her separation from her ‘sibling’, and the resulting confusion and grief that comes with it. It provides an engaging insight into a family with a difference, including a father who chooses to make his family the subjects of his professional studies.

However, while the family is unique, to say the least, they encounter many of the same problems that many families might relate to, of good intentions with unpredictable results and the parents’ desire to create an extraordinary life for their children.

Rosemary’s voice is a funny, and disarming one, as a young girl she responds to being told not to talk so much, and to ‘start in the middle’ of a story.

It is told with great affection, sensitivity and humour, and its premise is original and approached with care. While it is easy to read, it embraces complex issues of parenting, psychology, sibling relationships and the morality of meddling with nature.

At times, the writing is a little choppy, and I became a bit disengaged towards the end of the book, but on the whole, it was an inventive, funny and touching read.

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