We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Too Much Monkey Business! This is a difficult book to review without giving too much of the central conceit away. It is about a young girl who has a difficult childhood with her alcoholic, academic anthropologist father and her hopeless mother which is made worse when her ersatz twin sister and brother disappear. The reasons why unravel later in the book so it is unfair to say what they are. The book is a study of the girl’s fractured personality and how she emerges from these damaging beginnings, falls in and out with some unsavoury people and catches up with her brother to achieve some kind of happy ending.

A lot of people seem to like this book so where did it get too hairy for me? First off, I didn’t warm to any of the characters or find their lives interesting. Second, third and fourth, the bits about telling me about this or that later grated with me, about midway the book got polemical about its main theme, and the ending was too pat.

It is nicely written in parts and, sometimes, quite funny. There is quite an interesting discussion about identity and personality lurking behind the text but it never seems to go anywhere. So, only three stars. If you are an animal lover you might give it more but it didn’t push my buttons.


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