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Monday, May 11, 2015

Starting In The Middle

Creating a fresh family story is not easy. But Karen Jay Fowler does exactly that in her 2013 novel "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves". Among the reasons I've never developed a taste for mysteries or thrillers is not being real fond of the frequent twists and turns. But the capital "S" surprise Fowler reveals about 25% into her novel was so organic, I felt compelled to continue reading instead of feeling tricked or manipulated. To avoid getting cheated, beware discussions or notices about this book containing spoilers.

Narrator Rosemary Cooke, a kindergarten teacher, begins her family's story in the middle. Her father bails her out of jail when she becomes collateral damage following a tempestuous college classmate's cafeteria meltdown. Her father's surprise at Rosemary's arrest, it turns out, is predictably clueless. Both he and her mother don't connect this middle event to the maelstrom they constructed, one that dominated the start of Rosemary's life. And Fowler skillfully reveals that start in tantalizing, bite size pieces right alongside sketches of how this unique family story ends. The architecture is thrilling.

As I finished "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves", I began reflecting: What percentage of the stories I've read or seen portrayed - on film, stage or TV -  have been about family dynamics? How about you? Perhaps more significantly, what percentage of those stories have felt as fresh as Fowler's? If you pick up this worthwhile and well written novel, please let me know what you think.

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