The novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was written by the American author Karen Joy Fowler and published by Plume in 2013. Fowler is known for writing about women and about their lives and this novel is no different as it focuses on the life of the major character in the book Rosemary.
The novel focuses on a family who adopted a baby chimpanzee and then one day, the chimpanzee just disappeared. In an interview, Karen Joy Fowler admitted that she was inspired by a real experiment that took place in the 1930s, when a couple with children adopted and raised a chimpanzee alongside their children. Fowler was also influenced by her father, who actually studied animal behavior at the Indiana University and with whom Fowler admitted to having arguments about animal intelligence. In order to prepare writing for her book, the author read everything she could about families that adopted chimps and the reason behind this is that she wanted to make the chimp’s behavior in the book as plausible as possible. Her efforts paid off and in the end the novel was awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2014.
The narrative technique is somewhat unusual as the narrator begins recalling the events in the middle of the story. The reason behind this is that Fowler wanted ‘’the reader to assume the similarities, before looking for the differences’’ between humans and chimpanzees. Because of this way of narrating, there remains the question why did Rosemary’s father take in a chimpanzee but the answer is not given in the novel.
The book was well received by the public and it considered as being a very successful and innovative novel.