Another WWII novel that I didn’t think I would read. Although this is for my book club, so I suppose I didn’t have any choice.
Ramona Ausubel’s novel, No One is Here Except All of Us, is an interesting psychological look at what can happen when a community decides to ignore reality and hide. While WWII is breaking out around Europe, a small secluded town of Romanian Jews makes the decision to ignore everything that is happening and all the has happened and start the world anew. This is prompted by the intrusion into their community by a stranger who escaped her entire family’s massacre and then washed up on their riverbank. Somehow the town latches on to the stranger as their savior and the idea sprouts to establish a new world. A world that just started and contains no knowledge of other places, ideas, religions, etc.
With reality gone, the townspeople live this delusional fantasy where a childless couple can ‘obtain’ an 11 year old girl who is reborn as theirs and relives her infancy and childhood within months, somehow passing up her actual age and becoming a child bride so that her ‘adoptive’ mother can relish the role as mother of the bride. Reality, again so far gone, that it is acceptable for a husband, overwhelmed by fatherhood, to sleep through everything while receiving a paycheck and supporting his family.
The delusion is not localized to this small town, it spreads to wherever these characters travel, and even rape is justified under these irrational standards.
Ausubel explores what the fear of mass extermination can do to the mind: collectively and individually. The importance of storytelling is throughout the novel. It is not the facts that make the story true, but the fact that the story is told makes the story the truth.
This story is about who will survive and how. Truth is not important, but the survival of the story is important. Ausubel’s style has a dreamlike quality and is wonderful to read. Transporting the reader to a known world with a very different story than what is in the history books.
Read February 2013