Hey everybody! I’ve been living life, meeting bloggers, and trying to absorb every bit of this crazy London journey. Last Thursday night, I hung out with Frankie, Sophie, and Flick at Brooklyn Bowl. We ate (Biscuits & gravy, and chicken with honey),
and were merry. As big a city as London is, it can be difficult to make friends, so I’m super glad to have gotten to hang out with these girls.
I also recently finished the novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. The protagonist is in college and is talking to you about her life without her siblings. Her older brother left home a decade or so ago, and her sister was taken away. Forced away. Sounds horrific, eh?
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize, and I can absolutely see why. The prize is for an original work of fiction written in English and published in the UK. This is one of the most original and interesting novels I’ve ever read. The protagonist’s parents are psychologists who used their immediate family to conduct an experiment. The protagonist is the youngest child and principle to the experiment. However it ended up affecting her and the rest of her family in ways they could not predict. I bet you’ve noticed how careful I’m being in writing about this. That’s because the story’s “twist” (which is revealed before the halfway point in the novel) is something I already knew going in, but wish I hadn’t. Knowing doesn’t stop you enjoying the book, but I wonder how different my reading experience would have been had I not known ahead of time.
In any case, what I WILL tell you is that Fowler is excellent at illustrating how the behavior we learn through experience shapes our personalities as we age. I think a lot about what I was like as a child: loud, brave, emotional, sensitive, hopeful. I kept to myself sometimes, but most of my me-ness was projected outward without fear. Fear, anxiety, shyness, those things developed more as I aged and spent time around other people at school. The older you get, the more rules are foisted upon you to “smooth out” your personality. Some aspects of your identity are determined to be acceptable — others, not so much. Fowler explores this and the idea of ones’ “true self.” Does a “true self” exist? Does it change as we grow up? Is being your “true self” necessarily a good thing to be? Fowler asks a lot of questions through her characters and gives you breathing room to come up with your own answers.
Another remarkable thing about this book? Let me preface this by saying that I’m like Graham in The Holiday: a crier. Certain scenes in my favorite movies and TV shows that I’ve seen BILLIONS of times never fail to make me cry. When someone says or does something particularly kind, I cry. When I’m angry, I cry. I’m a bag of water, y’all. However, one thing that rarely, if ever, makes me cry? Books. I don’t cry when I read stories. It doesn’t matter how invested I am in the tale, novels/short stories don’t make me cry. I’d only had one experience where that happened and it was because reading that story made me angrier, sadder, and more confused about human beings than any novel ever has. (I’m talking about PUSH by Sapphire. Read at your own risk.)
I cried at the end of this book. The last scene is gorgeous, and not in a smarmy way. It’s perfect.
Have you read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves? Let me know what you think if you do decide to pick it up!
Happy Monday 😀