One of my coworkers recently told me that life was too short to finish reading a not-so-great book…”there are too many good books in the world, and not enough time”. It never occurred to me to NOT finish a book. My eyes would glaze over and skim through paragraphs waiting for something amazing to catch my attention, and before I knew it, I was seventy-three.
Okay, that’s dramatic.
Anyway, I found myself in the early pages of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, intrigued by the Man Booker Prize Finalist distinction, and curious about what makes this book stand out from the pile.
I was immediately invested in the main character. And then I wasn’t. I should tell you, I have my moments where I make life harder than it needs to be. This is no exception. Had I read the back of the book, I would have known that the book was about a girl who was raised with a chimpanzee, and consequently, would have decided never to read the book to begin with. But I did not read the back of the book. I should also tell you that I have nothing against books that tell stories of humans and chimpanzees coexisting, yet I do have issue with this being a piece of fiction. Because yes, oftentimes fiction is created from the ashes of reality, but I had a hard time connecting enough to the characters for my imagination to believe it really happened. I need that from a book (I can be such a brat). This is all perplexing to me because right now, as I’m typing this, I am reading the singing of praises from others at the front of the book, and it seems I am the only person alive who didn’t think this was Top Shelf. So what am I missing?
Were there sections of the story that were heart-wrenching? Oh yes, there were tears! Were there sections that made me want to adopt the narrator? Yeeessss. But I couldn’t quiet the nagging voice in my head during the latter part of the book that incessantly repeated, “read something else”. I can recognize the coming-of-age story, and this New York Times review sums it up nicely:
“this is a story of Everyfamily in which loss engraves relationships, truth is a soulful stalker and coming-of-age means facing down the mirror, recognizing the shape-shifting notion of self.”
The fact remains that there are more books out there that, for me, do it better. I’m off to search for them… wish me luck!