No One Is Here Except All of Us

Written by Ramona Ausubel
Review by Helene Williams

It’s 1939, and in the small Jewish town of Zalischik, Romania, the villagers know that bad things are happening in the rest of the world. The little they hear, in the newspapers and mail, and from the few travelers passing through, is incomprehensible.

After a bomb and a flood, the village is suddenly cut off from all outside contact; the townspeople decide, based on 11-year-old Lena’s idea, to start the world over. They discard radios, watches, machines which have no place in a just-created world, and they live simply, honestly, and spiritually, in the belief that there is nothing beyond the boundaries of the village. Lena matures, learning difficult lessons about love and family, yet this newly created universe contains some joy, as well, until the real world and war intersect it, shattering everything.

Although the novel is narrated by the young Lena, the story is much more than her gripping story of survival: it is also the history of a people, of belonging, of being free and of being held captive. It is also a deeply insightful look into how faith and belief shapes our everyday lives. Ausubel has based this, her first novel, on her own family’s history, and she has said she found hope in the telling of the story. The need to remember, and to be remembered, is a recurring theme for Lena, for the village, and for the Jews lost in the Holocaust. Ausubel’s lyrical and haunting narrative ensures that this story, at least, will not be among the forgotten.