Spoiler alert alert: A spoiler alert follows. It itself may be too revealing. My suggestion is to stop reading this post and start reading Karen Joy Fowler's novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves like now.
Spoiler alert: I could describe what this book is about in a sentence, but I will not. Though it has been out since the end of May, I was able to avoid reading anything about it and my ignorance was rewarded handsomely. At about 100 pages in, there is a massive reveal that will make the inevitable movie adaptation of this book far less magical — the necessary literalizing is bound to create something along the lines of Mark Romanek's underwhelming and didactic 2010 adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. As Ishiguro demonstrated, keeping readers partially in the dark can create a tremendous inroad to empathy. Books can do that — grip you right back as you hold them in your hand. Movies cannot.
However, now that you know there is something to be in the dark about, you may be searching for it, racking your brain as you read. Sometimes the very awareness of a twist is enough to spoil a work of fiction. So I really hope you didn't read this.
But if you did and still are, I just want to express how profoundly this book moved me — as someone who prizes my rationality and ability to keep a divide between my emotions and the pop culture I'm consuming it's almost embarrassing to admit being so affected by make believe characters.
Part of it is is that We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is about a very real situation that some people put themselves in, which I am very passionately against. The book is well researched and, in its own quiet way, advocacy. Another major factor is Fowler's tremendous empathy for her characters, especially her fascinatingly bizarre narrator, Rosemary, who's socially incompetent and prone to annoying almost everyone she encounters. This is a character study of a jarring persona along the lines of the Lisa Kudrow series The Comeback, but Rosemary's struggles are rarely played for derisive laughs. Her individuality is celebrated, articulated and elucidated via a fractured telling of the story of her upbringing.
This part, though, made me cackle:
I love Charlotte's Web and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is in some ways its spiritual descendant.
I'm saying too much.
Rosemary is self-conscious and awkward enough to guess what you the reader are thinking repeatedly and remind you of how unreliable she is as a narrator, how unreliable all narrators are, really, given the unstable nature of memory and diluting effect of emotion.
I'll give you one more indication of what this book is really about (besides, you know, the thing I'm not telling you that it's about) in Fowler's own words (minus a too-telling detail):
It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good talker. Rosemary is both.
July 4 is just a few days away. You may find yourself on a beach or by a pool or just with some surplus time around the holiday. Use it to read this goddamn book.
P.S. If you have read or are reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, you may need to talk about this book. I'm here for you. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org