Sue's Reviews > No One is Here Except All of Us

No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel
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's review
Apr 22, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

** spoiler alert ** This was a strange, strange book. There were times when I felt like the author was asking too much, the suspension of disbelief that every author requires of every reader. It was just too much. But therein lies the truth of this book. In 1939, a small Jewish village located on a hidden peninsula in Romania watches as a plane flies overhead and listens as bombs go off on the other side of the mountains. Within hours debris from the other side of the mountain comes floating down the river along with one of it's very much alive citizens. The stranger, a woman, tells the villagers how the soldiers were let loose in her village for 24 unchaperoned hours to do whatever they wanted to before the bombs came. Children were shot, women were mutilated and men were burned alive. The villagers all asked themselves and each other what their people had done to deserve this. Yesterday, they fed the goats, the day before they made an omelette, the week before that, they took a walk. Which of those things caused God to turn his back on them and caused the world to hate them?

The stranger and an 11 year old villager, named Lena, decide that they will just start over. The village is hidden in it's small valley. Very few people know it exists. They will cut off all ties to the outside world and will pretend that the world has started over. Today is the first day of the entire world. There is no history before today. No love, no violence, no loss, no death, no ghosts, no time. There is only today. Some husbands and wives switch spouses. Lena is given away to a childless couple and becomes their "baby". And this is where the book started to lose it for me. Lena's new parents decide they have just had a child and they wrap their 60-pound "baby" up in blankets and carry her around the town square, introducing everyone to their new baby. She is required to act like a baby and all the villagers look at and compliment the new parents on the birth of their baby and comment on how big she is. Lena's parents (both new and old) are doing something terrible to Lena. They are erasing her history and forcing her to start again and everyone in the village plays along. Her adoptive mother is plainly crazy and this charade borders on being abusive. I wondered why these people didn't stand up and do something for this child. Why didn't anyone help her?

And then I realized, this is the entire point of the book. The world stood by for too long and allowed a crazy person to deliver his version of reality - the Jews were responsible for everything bad in the world and should all be killed - and did nothing. The world played along with a charade that didn't make sense to anyone.

Lena's world starts over many times. She gets married, she has children, she flees for her life, she loses her family and her home over and over and finally the war ends. Always, she asks the same questions "Am I still me? Do I still remember?" And always the world answers, "Yes, you are still you. It is still your story."

A beautiful, poetic, disturbing book.
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Sarenna I'm almost done with this book and was starting to think that these people had lead in their water supply or something. I hadn't looked at it this way. Thank you for your review. Looking at the insanity in this new way sheds new light on this book for me.

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