Those who know me now will be surprised to learn that I was a great talker as a child.
–Karen Joy Fowler - We are all completely beside ourselves - c.2013
Rosemary Cooke is at college in California. She has no real friends to speak of. Her house mate Ted, maybe, but she isn’t sure. Then she encounters Harlow, a drama student who excels at drama. As in, over the top drama of day to day living. When they first meet both end up getting arrested.
But this isn’t the story of their friendship, or maybe that is to strong a word for their relationship. What this is story is all about is Rosemary herself, her family, her memories and her experiences as a child. It is about what it is to be human. And whether or not humanity is all there is.
Plotwise there is an important revelation less than 100 pages in, concerning Rosemary’s twin sister Fern. Which obviously I’m going to just blab here. At least not without hiding it behind spoiler tags.
It is a terribly sad book. But it isn’t a depressing one. It’s quite funny in places, Rosemary is a great narrator. An unreliable one, but she’ll tell you that herself. Because this book is also all about memory and how we rewrite our pasts even without knowing. A scene you remember with utter clarity might never have happened. And what does that mean? After all, our past defines us in many ways. The experiences we lived through, the lessons we learned, and if they didn’t happen the way we remember are we really who we think we are?
This was my first book by Fowler, I really enjoyed it and think I’ll read more by her. I would have like to learn more about Fern, but as Rosemary says, she can’t tell Fern’s side of the story because she wasn’t there for a lot of it, just like she can’t tell what happened to Lowell when he was absent. She can only tell you her story. It s a great read.