Line erased between species in empathetic novel

Karen Joy Fowler's funny and heartbreaking novel "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" is the story of Rosemary, a woman trying to make sense of the traumatic separation of her and her sister Fern in childhood.

Uh, did we mention that Fern was a chimpanzee?

In fact, Fowler herself doesn't mention that salient fact until about a third of the way through the novel. As a result, when the novel was first released in May, the plot twist became a kind of secret "reveal," that has stymied anyone who has attempted to talk about the story.

"I wrote the book the way I wanted to write it," said Fowler, author of the best-selling "The Jane Austen Book Club" and a Santa Cruz resident. "And I wanted the reader to be surprised. But I hadn't really stopped to think about what a difficulty I was creating for the marketing department at my publishing house, and for reviewers, as well as the difficulty I was creating for myself."

In the age of the hyper-vigilant "spoiler alert," Fowler, who appears tonight at the Capitola Book Caf? found she was having problems talking about her book at book signings.

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