When you are a child putting a blanket over top of yourself renders you invisible. This powerful cloaking device means that you are impenetrable, impervious to outside forces and best of all-- invisible. Author Ramona Ausubel elaborates on this kind of child’s logic regarding safety in her new novel No One Is HereExcept All Of Us.
After a brief, intriguing prolog Ausubel begins the story in 1939 Romania. In an out of the way, quiet Jewish village with a whole lot of Norman Rockwell done by Marc Chagall going on, the greater world has been largely absent from the villagers lives. When WWll threatens the village a plan to protect themselves is devised by Lena, the young daughter of a cabbage farmer and seconded by a mysterious stranger washed up on the village shores part shaman part harbinger. The plan is to just not accept that bad things are headed toward them. The villagers decide to shroud and redefine their world. They allow the roads leading in and out of their village to become overgrown and inside the village they start over. Relationships are reordered, family groups reorganized and jobs reassigned. By covering over the physical and emotional past they hope to fool the future into walking by them.
For a while the plan keeps evil at bay but of course this kind of Brigadoon cannot last forever. Hope gives way to fear and then to terror. The now grown Lena must take drastic action to save her children and find her husband. The future has come upon her and survival is all.
Ausubel had me entranced for the first half of this novel. The folktale quality of No One Is Here Except All Of Us perfectly fits Ausubel’s lyrical and vivid writing style. Her mapping out of the newly remade village and its citizens is magical. Unfortunately when the second half of the story has Lena and the others on the run the story and the writing disconnect. The introduction of the real world into the novel has some suspense but overall has a disjointed and somewhat haphazard feel.
On the very welcome strength of most of No One Is Here Except All of Us I will be looking forward to Ramona Ausubel’s next book.