I must admit that I haven't read any of Karen Joy Fowler's previous novels, but was drawn to this one for some reason. I didn't know what it was about, but I had read on social media that a few people I knew really enjoyed it. I won't be revealing the twist or too much of the story but I do have to say that after reading about two quarters of the novel I had to stop for the evening as I was absolutely heartbroken and so upset. Animal lovers be prepared for tears!
What is the novel about?
Firstly I would say that this novel is very unique, both the subject matter and the way in which it is written are different to the norm. Whilst it is written extremely well, with humour and with heart, I sometimes found the back and forth nature of the timeline could be slightly confusing. The novel starts with the middle of the story. Rose is at University and she tells us that both her sister and brother have left the family and she feels like an only child. She tells us about her life at the University culminating in her being arrested mistakenly after another girl goes crazy in the canteen smashing everything up. She tells us about what happened when she was five, she was sent to live with her Grandparents and she thought she would never live with her family again, and when she returned to the family three weeks later, her sister Fern was gone and not long after, her brother Lowell left.
The twist happens quite near the beginning of the book, probably about a quarter of the way through. Needless to say, I will not say what that is, but it absolutely changes the novel entirely. Rose explains about what happened before she was sent to her Grandparents and the general issue of memory, whether it can be trusted, whether our memories tell us the whole picture, or are we in fact hiding things even from ourselves? There is a lot of physiological theories discussed within the novel, both because of the twist and also because in the novel, Rose's father is a phycologist so it has always been part of her life.After we learn about some of her early childhood, we go back and forth somewhat until the end, which is the age Rose is now as she narrates the story to us.
Rose is the narrator of the novel and she talks to us as readers, which I really enjoyed and she could be very witty and clever, At University she shares a flat with her friend Todd, but generally finds it very hard to make friends.She makes a sort of friend in the crazy girl who smashed up the canteen, Harlow, who takes Rose drinking and gives her drugs and gets her arrested twice! But, really Rose finds it hard to conform to society as she is not being herself which is revealed as the book progresses. Her parents are in the background for the most part , but we learn more about their pain and suffering as the novel goes on. Her brother and sister Fern are also huge parts of the story, in a number of ways and covering a number of themes and issues.
In conclusion, without revealing too much, I would certainly recommend reading this if you are a book lover. it is very well written, very unique and heartbreaking at the same time.