Thursday, December 17, 2015

Best of 2015: Beside Ourselves

One of the many items [old and new] enjoyed by Burbank Public Library staff during 2015, recommended for your consideration:

Reviewed by Laura M.,
Reference Librarian

2015 was a banner year for me discovering books right in my wheelhouse--i.e., books featuring extremely unconventional, neurotic, or just plain outrageous female protagonists. Among the best were Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, Lynda Barry’s Cruddy, and Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine. My favorite, though, was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler.

If you read any synopsis or review of this book, it will most certainly spoil one of the most delightful reveals that takes place about a third of the way through. I was lucky enough to just be browsing available e-books in the library’s collection and chose this one knowing nothing about it, and I suggest you approach it the same way.

This is the story of the Cooke family: mother and father, one son and two daughters. The father is a psychologist who gets the family involved in an experiment that changes the course of their lives forever. It is narrated by one of his daughters, Rosemary, a new college student, as she attempts to move forward in her life without her sister and brother. As she navigates her first year of college, we gradually learn why her siblings are missing. This sounds heavy, and at times it is very heart-rending, but it is also hilarious. Rosemary is smart and bitingly funny. She has been raised in an unusual way, and while she can function fine in day-to-day life, when something out of the ordinary occurs --such as meeting a wild new friend, or being thrown in jail--different instincts kick in. She sees things from a different perspective, and her voice is so refreshing.

It’s really hard to say more without revealing the main idea of the novel. It’s rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, and even more rare that the same book makes me cry, but this one did both. My favorite book of the year so far.

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