No One Is Here Except All of Us

No One Is Here Except All of Us

3.5 16
by Ramona Ausubel

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In 1939, the families in a remote Jewish village in Romania feel the war close in on them. Their tribe has moved and escaped for thousands of years- across oceans, deserts, and mountains-but now, it seems, there is nowhere else to go. Danger is imminent in every direction, yet the territory of imagination and belief is limitless. At the suggestion of an eleven-year

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In 1939, the families in a remote Jewish village in Romania feel the war close in on them. Their tribe has moved and escaped for thousands of years- across oceans, deserts, and mountains-but now, it seems, there is nowhere else to go. Danger is imminent in every direction, yet the territory of imagination and belief is limitless. At the suggestion of an eleven-year-old girl and a mysterious stranger who has washed up on the riverbank, the villagers decide to reinvent the world: deny any relationship with the known and start over from scratch. Destiny is unwritten. Time and history are forgotten. Jobs, husbands, a child, are reassigned. And for years, there is boundless hope. But the real world continues to unfold alongside the imagined one, eventually overtaking it, and soon our narrator-the girl, grown into a young mother-must flee her village, move from one world to the next, to find her husband and save her children, and propel them toward a real and hopeful future. A beguiling, imaginative, inspiring story about the bigness of being alive as an individual, as a member of a tribe, and as a participant in history, No One Is Here Except All Of Us explores how we use storytelling to survive and shape our own truths. It marks the arrival of a major new literary talent.

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Editorial Reviews

Ramona Ausubel's No One Is Here Except All of Us combines two currently popular forms of Jewish-American storytelling: the Holocaust novel and the Yiddishkeit homage. We have no dearth of Holocaust-themed novels, of course, and authors such as Dara Horn, Shalom Auslander, and Jonathan Safran Foer have been reimagining Aleichem's and Singer's fabulisms through novels set in an otherwise quotidian present. Ausubel gambles by combining the two forms in this singsong parable about the life of a Jewish village in Romania during World War II.

The conceit she devises is initially charming, though it strains credulity, even in a world carefully imagined as a vessel for the narrative magic of a folktale. It is 1939, and the hundred villagers in secluded Zalishik, an island hamlet surrounded by a river, learn about the war when a stranger washes up on the shore with news of approaching horrors. With history becoming nightmare, the villagers decide to isolate themselves, cut off contact with the outside world, and start anew. Lena, then eleven, proposes that to do this they must recreate the world entirely. The child's precocious insight becomes the template for an audacious communal enterprise: forget all they knew before and start over from scratch. The early chapters unfold day by day, Genesis-style.

But war does come, and it first takes Lena's young husband, who becomes a character in an odd Mel Brooksian parody of POW life in Italy. Then it takes the village, though Lena escapes with her two sons, roaming and starving until she is taken in by a Russian farmer and his wife. When she leaves their home, she is alone, pregnant, and carrying papers and money to get her to America.

The plot, though, is not the story. Neither is character: Lena and her husband, Igor, are flattened by the mythmaking that lays a heavy somnolence over the novel — a mood strangely at odds with the desperate situation in which these people find themselves. Its dreamy pages are instead concerned with vagaries, longing, family, and the nature of stories writ large. Separated parents and children write each other notes: "This is how I love you." "I almost remember who you are and I definitely love you."

Ausubel's sepia-toned characters vaguely remember in the language of nouns: cabbages, river, mother, husband. Why? Jarringly, the "answer" to the novel is found in the back of the book, in Ausubel's "A Note from the Author." She tells us her grandmother told her stories of her upbringing in Romania. "The stories were fables to me," she writes. She asked her grandmother to tell those stories into a tape recorder and look at pictures with her. "We went through the photo albums full of pictures of men and women who all looked the same..." She wrote her grandmother's story "in the dark. The legends were nothing more than points of light in a night sky. My territory, my work, was the dark matter, the emptiness of what is not known, what is unthinkable yet can still be felt."

Generations removed from events, Ausubel explains her tale's misty obscurity. It is a lovely story, full of a diffuse sadness, but I look forward her future works of fiction — stories hopefully written in a sharper light.

Anne Trubek is Chair of Rhetoric and Composition at Oberlin College and the author of A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses.

Reviewer: Anne Trubek

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Ron Carlson
A special work of the imagination, an original gift, dark and light, and Ramona Ausubel colors it all with a glowing wisdom. (Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies)
Danzy Senna
In her strange and lovely debut novel, Ramona Ausubel tells (slyly, sideways) of the horrors of war: A Romanian Jewish community dreams up a collective delusion about the world they live in. Rather than resist or run from events too insane to be real, they construct an elaborate game of make-believe which works, until it doesn't. I was unsettled and moved by this tale of the human imagination—its force, its failure and its regeneration. (Danzy Senna, author of You are Free)
Christine Schutt
A wise, compassionate book that even in its darkest turns uplifts. (Christine Schutt, author of Florida and All Souls)
Samantha Hunt
Here is a world created out of the most curious and beautiful remnants of our own: opera, suitcases, letters, rivers, daughters, strangers and shovels. Ramona Ausubel cracks open the very idea of a book and fills its shell with a thing glimmering, thrilling and new. (Samantha Hunt, author on The Invention of Everything Else)
Brad Watson
Beautifully written and alive in story, fascinating characters, and place. You can't help but compare Ausubel's book with Marquez, with her fantastic vision of history and invention, the small village dreaming the vast world, but she is her own new fresh voice. (Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury)
From the Publisher
"No One Is Here Except All of Us contains so many achingly beautiful passages, it's as if language itself is continually striving to be a refuge. . . . If a book can be said to have a consciousness, the consciousness here is infinitely tender and soulful, magical and true. It's the kind of God we wish for.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Ramona Ausubel's first novel, "No One Is Here Except All of Us," is a poetic fable about a part of history after which some people say poetry is an obscenity… Ausubel's fable-like tone is effective in creating a sensation of tale and dream. For conveying the full horror of the events surrounding the Holocaust, it is less so, but this isn't what she's trying to do. Instead, she is comfortable reshaping, in a safe time and place, stories that were handed to her, using her rhetorical and narrative skill to create something that can be carried without cutting the one who carries it.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hannah Tinti
In her debut novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us, Ramona Ausubel breaks new ground, with a unique prose style that weaves a classic immigrant tale into a world of dreams. The town of Zalischick and its citizens re-write their own story, filling it with magic, hope, and a determination in the face of destruction to find new ways to begin. (Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief)

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No One Is Here Except All of Us 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
3amreader More than 1 year ago
A village simply decouples itself from Europe in 1939. This novel explores big subjects - history, identity, nature, war, childhood - through the life of the village, as if Brigadoon floated away from World War II. About 320 pages long, the book drifts gently at first, and then courses along from about page 190 to the end in some of the best contemporary story-telling and writing I have read. Might be a book that will become a classic.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
"There is always a story. No matter what we do, it can't help but unfold" No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel is the most moving book I have read in a long time.   I grabbed it from the library after Leah @ Books Speaks Volumes raved about it, and I was not disappointed. The small Romanian village of Zalischik is isolated from the rest of the country geographically.  When a stranger is found, still alive, in their river, with a horrific tale of WWII tragedy, the town takes 11-year-old Lena's advice to begin the world again.  What does this mean?  The villagers ban together, "forget" and get rid of old world things, and start their lives over.  This leads to some wonderful and some very tragic experiences.   But what happens when the bubble bursts?  When the villagers can no longer pretend that they are truly isolated in a new world?   Ramona Ausubel is a beautiful writer, sometimes cryptic and odd, with writing filled with gorgeous metaphors.   The writing is emotional.  I felt so connected to the characters.   No One Is Here Except All of Us is mournful, beautiful, like a song that fills you with melancholy and brings tears to your eyes.    Thank you for reading,  Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel is a fic­tional book tak­ing place dur­ing World War II. The book fol­lows a small group of Jew­ish vil­lagers who lives in a town on a river bank. In a remote Jew­ish vil­lage, located on a river bank, the war is clos­ing in on them. After thou­sands of years of mov­ing, escap­ing and being expelled sud­denly, in 1939, it seems that there is nowhere to go. The answer to the village's dilemma comes from an eleven year old girl and a mys­te­ri­ous stranger - they will rein­vent the world. No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausube is a very lyri­cal and poetic book. The story flows, is unique and fas­ci­nat­ing. Most of the time I read the book I felt as if I, or the pro­tag­o­nist, were dream­ing, how­ever, upon read­ing the author's note it turned out that many of the events are based on what Ms.Ausubel's great grand­mother expe­ri­enced dur­ing World War II. The premise of the book is inter­est­ing, some­thing I haven't read yet. At first it was hard for me to process the story, I'm just too log­i­cal, but the more I read, the eas­ier it go and I started to let go and enjoy the story more and more. Ms. Ausubel man­aged to cre­ate a world within a world through her char­ac­ters which sucked me into as well. I would almost be tempted to cat­e­go­rize this book under "magic", but I wouldn't go as far and nei­ther does the book itself. With­out giv­ing any­thing away, I was sur­prised by the end­ing, which is not sappy or the manda­tory feel-good type we come to expect. Even if you wouldn't like the story, you'd love the prose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The weirdest book that I have read about a group of people during WWII and the losses they shared, the deaths , and trying to remember their faith. I really didnt enjoy and was the hardest 200 pages to read. Not because of rthe subjecy matter, but the way the matter was written. A sixth grader could have done as well. I read a lot. Generally, a book every day or two. I couldnt keep on track. The book was free and you could tell.
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MEOOHMY More than 1 year ago
Since it was meant as a word-of-mouth story it is not the easiest read out there but worth the effort.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has to be one of the worst books I have ever tried to read. Don't waste your money!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting concept but becomes meaningless at the end.
460Ground More than 1 year ago
A terrible book. Poorly written and childishly done. Character development was non-existent. The only reason I kept reading was it was a book club choice. I was hoping that all the characters would quickly die so the book would be over.