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No One is Here Except All of Us Hardcover – February 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (February 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487941
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tea Obreht interviews Ramona Ausubel.

Tea Obreht is the author of The Tiger’s Wife, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. Here she talks with novelist Ramona Ausubel about her experiences writing No One is Here Except All of Us.

Téa Obreht: I’m always interested in how projects of this magnitude begin. It seems like a novel “about” one’s family, or projecting one’s family into a fictional sphere, almost always ends up being an endeavor of self-discovery. Tell me a little bit about how you came to it, about what inspired you to take this journey and why.

Tea Obreht

Ramona Ausubel: The project started out as a desire to record the family stories while my grandmother was still alive and well (happily, she remains so at ninety-one). I didn’t know it would become a novel until later, when, having collected dozens of individual stories, I was frustrated that the complete picture was still foggy. It felt like having a lot of scraps of fabric, but if I wanted to see the quilt, I was going to have to sew it myself.

Obreht: So much of this incredible book relies on fable, on the creation and acceptance of a particular reality in order to survive. At the end of the book, in a note to the reader, you even say “facts aren’t important” and that “the truth is in the telling.” What draws you to this idea of fable? What is its place in the modern world?

Ausubel: When I first started writing, I was trying to stick as closely to the “facts” as possible. Soon, I realized that facts were not what I really cared about. The reason it mattered to my grandmother to tell the story and the reason it mattered to me to hear it and tell it again was not that we were trying to reconstruct history, it was that we were trying to fold the characters, places and lives from the past into our world. As long as a story is being told, it stays alive, even as it changes. Each fable is a version of what could have happened, and between all those versions, maybe we come close to the truth. I think that, no matter how modern our world gets, we will always have a need to tell stories about the past.

Obreht: I was fascinated by the point of view shifts in No One Is Here Except All Of Us; it seems that the novel begins rooted in collective consciousness and then, as the experiment of isolation fails, and tragedy upon tragedy is unleashed onto the characters, this shared perspective splits up until, in an ironic twist, outside communication becomes the only way the characters receive fragmented information about each others’ lives. Why did you choose this particular narrative style? How did you settle on Lena as the primary voice?

Ramona Ausubel

Ausubel: It took many drafts to find the right point-of-view for this story. Lena is based on my great-grandmother and I knew she would be the protagonist, but I wanted it to be about everyone together as well, for there to be a kind of Greek chorus. Finally, I decided to give the story to Lena to tell, and to allow her to speak both for the village and for herself, to speak to the ideas of collective struggle and imagination in addition to one person’s loneliness and isolation.

Obreht: This novel was obviously inspired by family legends, but tell me more about your own life as a writer. When did you know you wanted to write? Who are some of your literary influences?

Ausubel: I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember. My mom recently came across the poems I wrote in fifth grade, and I was a little embarrassed to admit that not only did I recall writing them, but I had been so proud of them that I still had them memorized twenty years later. I still feel the same sense of excitement and satisfaction when a piece of writing starts to come alive.

Some authors and books that matter to me are Pastoralia, by George Saunders, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gilead by Marilyn Robinson and Florida by Christine Schutt.

Obreht: You already have numerous illustrious publications under your belt, but No One Is Here Except All Of Us is your first novel. What were some of the challenges you had to overcome, and what surprised you most about the process?

Ausubel: I have written short stories that mattered a lot to me, but writing this book was different because I spent so many hours in the world of the novel--some days I spent more time there than I did in the real world. Though the characters are different from the relatives on whom they are based, I still feel that I got to know my ancestors in a way I never could have otherwise. Those old family stories became my own, and they became part of my everyday life.

In November, I became a mother. As I gaze down at my new baby, a tiny, beautiful little boy, I think, “I’m glad you’re here. I have so many stories to tell you,” and I realize that in many ways I have been writing this novel for him.

(Photo of Téa Obreht © Beowulf Sheehan)

(Photo of Ramona Ausubel © Twin Lens Images)

From Booklist

For the nine Jewish families who live in a valley in northern Romania in 1939, the troubles in their part of the world are known but distant. Then a woman who is the sole survivor of her ravished village washes up on the riverbank, and she, assisted by narrator Lena, suggests starting over, building a new and perfect world, with no memories of the painful past. With the barn as its temple and the stranger as its spiritual leader, the small village is bypassed by troops for years, until one day when three soldiers arrive and carry off Igor, Lena’s husband, a man who specializes in sleeping. Taking her children, Lena leaves, with the admonition that she survive to tell what happens. While Igor is a pampered prisoner in Sardinia, Lena endures unimaginable hardships and wrenching losses. 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. --Michele Leber

More About the Author

Ramona Ausubel is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle and Huffington Post Best Book of the Year. Her new book A Guide to Being Born is a collection of short stories, which will be out in May 2013. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review Daily, One Story, The Best American Fantasy and shortlisted in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading.

Find out more at www.ramonaausubel.com

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Customer Reviews

Ausubel's writing is poetic.
Heather
What ensues is destruction, betrayal, and devastation, but also, great opportunities for courage, self-sacrifice, and hope.
Erika Robuck
I didn't like all the characters but I guess I wasn't supposed to.
Marilyn Mendoza

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Julie Lovisa VINE VOICE on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is the latter years of WWII and a small group of Jewish villagers in Romania decide that they're tired of running away from the destruction around them. A stranger from a decimated town washes up on their river bank and at her suggestion and the suggestion of an 11-year old girl named Lena, they decide to reinvent history and begin their world over again from day one. Husbands and children are reassigned homes and stories are invented to explain their places in the world. Lena becomes a child to two sets of parents, marries, and has children. When the village is finally discovered, her husband is taken prisoner and she decides that it would be safer to set out on her own to search for him than to keep her family there. Lena must endure so much change and loss that it made my heart ache and brought tears to my eyes more than once, but I will let the readers discover her haunting story on their own. Her plaintive refrain is that of, "I almost remember who you are," to all of the people that she loves and must do what she feels is right for them, not necessarily for herself.

This is one of the most poetic books I've read in a very long time. The prose is so ethereal it's almost as if you're reading a dream ... a direct contrast to the reality of the evil things that were occurring during WWII. Lena's story is based on the true story of the author's great-grandmother during WWI and learning that many of the events that took place in the book were actual events added even more weight to it. This is not a feel-good book with an obligatory happy ending; it is a book that lets us know that we are not alone in the world and that sometimes it's okay to shape our own history.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In the small Jewish shtetl of Zalischik, Romania, life is quiet and predictable. The 100 or so residents of the riverside village have their jobs to do: growing cabbage, selling jewelry, keeping track of the money in the bank. But in 1939, after keeping danger at bay for so long, a threat greater than they can imagine is moving closer and closer. One day they hear bombs falling close by, and later a woman they don't know washes up on the shore of the river. The stranger tells them about the violence she witnessed and how her husband and children were murdered and her town destroyed. The people of Zalischik, inspired by the Stranger's story and encouraged by the imagination of an 11-year-old girl named Lena, decide that, to save themselves and find peace, they must build the world anew.

Ramona Ausubel's debut novel, NO ONE IS HERE EXCEPT ALL OF US, is the story of Zalischik, and Lena is the heart of the story. While the world around them rages with war and their people are once again persecuted and terrorized, armed with just a sense of wonder and trust, Zalischik re-creates the world and wakes up to day one. But challenges remain, and Lena symbolizes them all. In order to maintain the illusion they all agree on, Lena's family must give her up. She goes to live with an aunt and uncle where she becomes their baby and grows quickly to a marriageable woman. The Stranger stays in the village listening to the prayers of the residents and reflecting back to them their darkest fears and wildest hopes.

Years pass, but Zalischik cannot keep the outside world at bay forever, and one day Italian soldiers march in and take Lena's husband prisoner. The spell is broken, and the villagers know the make-believe universe they have lived in is no longer safe.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the tradition of Robin Hood and the much more recent "Defiance" ("The Bielski Partisans"), Ramona Ausubel's latest (and first) novel: "No One Is Here Except All Of Us," gives readers a story of heroic peasant alacrity. In this case, the war is World War II, and the peasantry is the resilient and, indeed, defiant peasantry of the underground Jewish people.

There are lots of things to like in Ausubel's novel. Her powers of description and imagery, with which she is perhaps only a bit too ready to impart to readers, churns out such golden nuggets as cheeks, "scrubbed...that look like juicy, pluckable fruit" and skin, "[like] one map divided into three pages," in only the first chapter, with countless more besides. Practical and authentic folk wisdom scatter the pages, and Ausubel displays her supreme talent of simple storytelling in the form of numerous Biblical anecdotes and perpetuating beginnings. The whole story in fact, is one long narrative of beginnings, from the peasants' mental rebirthing of their world, to the rebirths of character the protagonist Lena experiences. It becomes very easy for one to lose count of the number of times "once there was" is repeated. In a world that's described with childish divagations and a life of bucolic, land-tilling provinciality, the affect of perpetuating first-act-Garden of Eden creation is rather sweet. It also provides a suitable summary of the novel itself, which involves the girl, Lena, and her community of Jewish peasants choosing to remake their world in the face of looming world war destruction.

However, Ausubel begins to encounter problems when she seeks to stray beyond these boundaries into the great, gaping unknown of serious literary venture.
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