[A] novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get…Fowler…is a trustworthy guide through many complex territories: the historical allure and dicey ethics of experimental psychology, not to mention academic families and the college towns of Bloomington and Davis…The novel's fresh diction and madcap plot…bend the tone toward comedy, but it never mislays its solemn raison d'etre. Monkeyshines aside, this is a story of Everyfamily in which loss engraves relationships, truth is a soulful stalker and coming-of-age means facing down the mirror, recognizing the shape-shifting notion of self.
Barbara Kingsolver - New York Times Book Review
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves isn't just about an unusual childhood experiment; it's about a lifetime spent in the shadow of grief…Rosemary's voice and her efforts to understand—and forgive—herself are moving. Fowler has such a sprightly tone, an endearing way of sloughing off profound observations that will illuminate your own past even if you have no chimps swinging in your immediate family tree…What does it mean to be human, she asks, and what does it mean to be humane? Although there's little doubt where her sympathies lie, Fowler manages to subsume any polemical motive within an unsettling, emotionally complex story that plumbs the mystery of our strange relationship with the animal kingdom—relatives included.
Ron Charles - Washington Post
Fowler’s interests here are in what sets humans apart from their fellow primates. Cognitive, language and memory skills all come into playful question. But the heart of the novel—and it has a big, warm, loudly beating heart throughout—is in its gradually pieced-together tale of family togetherness, disruption and reconciliation. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is Fowler at her best, mixing cerebral and emotional appeal together in an utterly captivating manner.
Rosemary’s voice is achingly memorable, and Fowler’s intelligent discourse on science vs. compassion reshapes the traditional family novel into something more universally relevant. The Cookes are unlike other families and like them at the same time, and through Rosemary’s unique perspective Fowler forces us to confront some tough truths. This brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense.
[M]arvelous.... [A] jaw-dropping surprise at the heart of the story. Youngest daughter Rosemary is a college student acting on dangerous impulses...and the FBI are both on the lookout for her brother Lowell, who ran away after their sister Fern vanished.... Even in her most broken moments, Rosemary knows she knows things that no one else can know about what it means to be a sister, and a human being. Fowler’s (The Jane Austen Book Club) great accomplishment is not just that she takes the standard story of a family and makes it larger, but that the new space she’s created demands exploration.
(Starred review.) In this eye-opener from New York Times best-selling author Fowler, Rosemary Cooke narrates the story of her family, paying special attention to sister Fern, who just happens to have been a chimpanzee. With a reading group guide.
(Starred review.) Piquant humor, refulgent language, a canny plot rooted in real-life experiences, an irresistible narrator, threshing insights, and tender emotions—Fowler has outdone herself in this deeply inquisitive, cage-rattling novel.
(Starred review.) What is the boundary between human and animal beings and what happens when that boundary is blurred are two of many questions raised in Fowler's provocative sixth novel, the narration of a young woman grieving over her lost sister, who happens to be a chimpanzee.... Rosemary challenges readers to rethink concepts of kinship and selfhood; for Rosemary and Lowell, Fern was and will always be a sister, not an experiment in raising a chimpanzee with human children.... Readers will forgive Fowler's occasional didacticism about animal experimentation since Rosemary's voice...is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible. A fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping.
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