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Literary fiction, classics, dystopian, history, memoir, prize winners, and of course the 1001 books. You really might catch me reading anything!

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Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert
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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

Shortlisted for the 2014 Booker Prize, this book has gotten a lot of attention. I don't usually read hyped books (even if they do get shortlisted for the Booker—I seem to not enjoy such books).

 

And, indeed, I found this disappointing. Though I love some of Fowler's writing—her sharp little jabs at current events, mostly—the story was a bit too much.

 

Fowler begins her story in the middle. This doesn't bother me in the least—I love stories that jump through time, or are told backward, or otherwise don't work in a linear fashion. Rather, it's the foreshadowing and straight-up hints that there is a SECRET coming. Only with all the hints (and the book cover), it's a bit of a letdown when you get there.

 

And the abuse. Human on animal, human on human, institution on human, animal on animal (does the abuser know it's abuse? understand it is mean or cruel? Fowler and Rosemary, her narrator, let us wonder). That is what is most upsetting—and to find the depth of that abuse in the second half of the book is frustrating. I might not have finished if it came earlier.

 

Did Rosemary forgive her father? Clearly she forgave her mother, but her mother was a victim as well. She seems to be somewhat guilty, but she was not the professional and not the contracted, but she was the one that went into a deep depression at her "failure" and with guilt after the experiment went awry.

 

Though I did not enjoy this book, I do think it would be a great high school or college class read, especially in a science, psychology, or ethics class. The tone very much reads like a YA book to me (and I found it quite awkward, as it reads as though Rosemary is speaking, not writing). But the topics brought up in this book—the ethics of research and the repercussions—must be discussed amongst students who might do this sort of work.

 

I have not read any of Fowler's other books. I did enjoy her long bio on goodreads. I think I would love to read any book of essays she might write.