Summary and book reviews of No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel

No One is Here Except All of Us

A Novel

by Ramona Ausubel

No One is Here Except All of Us
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

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, exploring how we use storytelling to survive and shape our own truths.

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.

Dear Chaya,

I am sitting with you on my lap, by the window. There are ice crystals on the glass. If I put my ear close enough I can almost hear them cracking and growing. It's not snowing now, but it has been all morning. Even though you have only been alive a few days, your story, our story, started a long time ago. Ours is a story I know, both the parts I saw with my eyes and the parts I did not. This kind of knowing comes from somewhere in my bones, somewhere in my heart. Someday, your children will ask what happened, and you will tell a new version, and this way, the story will keep living. The truth is in the telling.

It began in 1939, at the northern edge of Romania, on a small peninsula cupped by a muddy river. The days then were still and peaceful. Morning was for kneading bread, milking cows. We brought babies up to our lips. The baker had loaves in the oven in time for them to come out again when we were hungry for lunch. Children added, divided and multiplied numbers ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the opening of the novel, Lena tells Chaya in her letter, "Maybe, when the world began, everything had been clean and pure." When the villagers start their world over, does the world begin "clean and pure," or are the seeds of its destruction built into its founding?


  2. When the villagers start their world over, they begin with storytelling. What importance does storytelling have for the novel? What is its power? How does each of the characters employ storytelling? What do these uses tell you about each character?


  3. One of the bonds that is the most transient in the novel is that between parent and child. How does the author depict this bond? Consider the situations in which children are transferred in the novel: were the parents ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

What really makes this book a standout is Ausubel's writing. Honestly, I can't remember reading a more beautifully written book. The author's use of language is marvelously poetic and vivid; nearly every sentence paints a detailed picture. She relies heavily on metaphor throughout the novel, and while I often found her allusions unusual, they were also highly illustrative and apt.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Vogue

Ramona Ausubel's debut, No One Is Here Except All of Us captures the magical group-think of a Romanian village that retreats into an imaginary reality at the outbreak of war.

Library Journal

A wonderfully fresh and inventive premise replicating exactly what literature can do, and award-winning debut author Ausubel reputedly writes with warmth and flare.

Booklist

Ausubel uses the history of her own great grandmother as the framework for her first novel, which fully evokes the horrors of the Holocaust by merely touching on events. A fabulist tale of love, loss, faith, hope, community, and, especially, the power of story.

Kirkus

Starred Review. Ausubel's sustained, idiosyncratic take on the Holocaust is double-edged, alternating affecting heartache with sentimental poetic overkill. Opinion may be divided, but there’s an undeniable element of talent here

Author Blurb Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
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.

Author Blurb Ron Carlson, author of The Signal
Here we are, benevolent and cruel, gorgeous and deranged, in a truly enthralling saga, which simply staggered me with its capacity for gratitude. No One is Here Except All of Us is a special work of the imagination, an original gift, dark and light, and Ramona Ausubel colors it all with a glowing wisdom.

Author Blurb Brad Watson, author of Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives
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.

Author Blurb Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else
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.

Author Blurb Christine Schutt, author of All Souls
Beguiling and deeply informative, Ausubel's novel is a creative account of the recreation of a world full of the visionary's paradox: the song is a howl, the child is an ancient, 'yet everything stays true no matter how much changed.' A wise, compassionate book that even in its darkest turns uplifts.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

An Interview with Ramona Ausubel

In a thoughtful and personal interview, BookBrowse reviewer Kim Kovacs talks with Ramona Ausubel, debut author of No One is Here Except All of Us:

Ramona Ausubel It seems like you hit a mental roadblock after researching your family history, mired in facts that wouldn't form into a novel. In an interview with Penguin you said that you "got closer to the truth once I put my notes away." Can you tell us more about that?
I had interviewed my grandmother, gathered photographs and letters and objects and spent time in the library doing research, but when I started to write, I felt completely stuck. I didn't have nearly enough information to write a real history, yet the information was enough to feel limiting. Finally, I realized that historians were ...

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