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October 27, 2016


Adults : Suggested Discussion Questions

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Suggested Discussion Questions

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Plume Books, 2014)


  1. "Once upon a time, there was a family with two daughters, and a mother and a father who’d promised to love them both exactly the same." (p. 58) What happens when a child’s sense of security and trust is broken? How does Fowler explore this? How do families break and how do they heal?
  2. Rosemary remarks that parents have favorite children, even if they say they don’t. How does this dynamic play out in her family? What role does sibling rivalry play?
  3. From the beginning, Rosemary is distinguished from Fern by her ability to use language. How does Rosemary’s tendency towards storytelling shape her memories and sense of self? What role does storytelling play within families?
  4. How does Rosemary approach her memories of her past and of her sister? What events trigger Rosemary to revisit the past?
  5. How does Fern’s presence - and, later, her absence - define the Cooke family?
  6. What is your perspective on Lowell? How do you view his actions?
  7. Who does Rosemary blame in her family, and how does it impact her view of family members? How is this different from Lowell, and from her parents?
  8. What does this book say about failure, grief and forgiveness?
  9. Lowell tells Rosemary that people don’t want to look at the misery in the world and hate those who point it out. (p. 232) How does this relate to the themes of repressed memories and humankind’s relationship with animals?
  10. In relation to Lowell’s animal rights activism, Karen Joy Fowler said in an interview, “I guess what I believe is that things should be done in the open. If we can’t bear to look at what we are doing, then we shouldn’t be doing it.” What are your thoughts on this?
  11. Do you think the book has a happy ending?


Seattle Reads
2016 Seattle Reads: 'We are all completely beside ourselves' by Karen Joy Fowler
Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library