cover image No One Is Here Except All of Us

No One Is Here Except All of Us

Ramona Ausubel. Riverhead, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59448-794-1

Ausubel’s debut novel about survival and storytelling begins in 1939 as nine Jewish families that make up the northern Romanian village of Zalischik decide—as war threatens to consume all of Europe—to “start over” by retreating into an imaginary, alternative history and remaking their world. Aided by a mysterious pogrom survivor who appears in their village, these families reinvent themselves, reassigning relationships, occupations, even ages, believing against reason that this new version of events will keep them safe, for, they hope, “this world is about hope more than events.” At the center of the effort and the novel is Lena, the 11-year-old daughter of the village cabbage farmer, who must maintain the thread of narrative even as she is adopted by her aunt and uncle, married to the banker’s unlucky son, Igor, and becomes a mother. When the outside world finally intrudes on the village idyll, Lena must accept that her duty is “to survive to tell what happens,” and she sets out on a journey that will deprive her of everything but her will to keep telling. Despite hints of beauty and meaning, the novel’s combination of magical realism and traumatic history feels forced, undermining its theme of the power of storytelling. Agent: Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Feb.)