We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Rosemary Cooke, the novel’s twenty-two-year-old narrator, comes from what seems an ordinary enough 1970’s Midwestern family: two scientist parents—her father is a psychology professor at Indiana University—and three children. Taking the advice her father often dispensed when she was a loquacious child (“Skip the beginning. Start in the middle.”), Rosemary begins her story after grief over her lost sister, Fern, has fissured her family. Rosemary has just been arrested on her college campus; her runaway brother is wanted by the FBI; and her family has still never approached the topic of Fern, who disappeared when Rosemary was five. A quarter of the way through her story, Rosemary reveals a strange truth, deftly hidden from the reader up until that point: Fern is a chimpanzee, and she and Rosemary were twinned as the subjects of a behavioral psychology experiment conducted by Rosemary’s father and gone terribly awry.
Karen Joy Fowler is an American author of science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Her work often centers on the nineteenth century, the lives of women, and alienation.