“In 1939, the residents of a remote Jewish village in Romania feel the war close in on them. Their tribe has moved and escaped for thousands of years-across oceans, deserts, and mountains-but now, it seems, there is nowhere else to go. Danger is imminent in every direction, yet the territory of imagination and belief is limitless. At the suggestion of an eleven-year-old girl and a mysterious stranger washed up on the riverbank, the villagers decide to reinvent the world: deny any relationship with the known, and start over from scratch. Destiny is unwritten. Time and history are forgotten. Jobs, husbands, a child, are reassigned. And for years, there is boundless hope. But the real world continues to unfold alongside the imagined one, eventually overtaking it, and soon our narrator-the girl, grown into a young mother-must flee her village, move from one world to the next, to find her husband and save her children, and propel them toward a real and hopeful future.”
I wish I had written this review right after finishing the book because I remember having so much to say about it! I still really love the book, but I wish I could remember some of the details that stood out to me. I know I adored the writing. Ausubel is a fantastic writer. If you iffy about the story, then read it for the writing.
As for the story, I actually had to put this book down a few times because I knew what future laid ahead for the villagers. It is so sad because they basically are in a state of denial about WWII and what is happening to other Jewish people and could happen to them. The way that this story is told makes it seem very quiet, simple, but it’s really so much more than that.
I really loved how Lena was the one who started the imaginary world, but also ended up being the one who realized that it just wasn’t going to work for forever.
I highly recommend this book. Like I said above, there was so much I wanted to discuss in my review, but I waited too long to right the review so now I can’t remember much 😦 But you will not be disappointed!
Some favorite quotes:
Page 25: “We were alone there, floating on a sea of black emptiness-all the chapters unwritten.
‘The beginning of the perfect world,’, I said.”
Page 52: “‘Oh, help!'” our father suddenly cried, loud enough to wake Moishe and me. He picked up a cabbage from the floor and threw it as hard as he could against the far wall, where it splashed open. My mother beckoned all three of us. She held us against her chest, my father crying and my brother and I stunned cold. She whispered into our hair, ‘You are reasons to live. You are enough to survive for.’ I grew older and heavier then, my mother’s love bigger than my own small body could hold. Her love would hang on to my ankles and wrists on every journey I would ever have to take, even if she was the one who sent me on it. My mother’s heart beat, oblivious to the upending universe around it. Everything goes on, it said. That is the best we can hope for.”
Page 128: “A person who wants to believe lives in a world full of proof.”
Page 143: “I do not wonder so much why we were left alone as long as we were. Why our village was skipped by marching Romanian soldiers with orders to send all the Jews and gypsies to the other side of the border for the Germans to deal with. What aches in every part of my body is that we did not hear their cries, the lives ending. Death by machine gun, death by starvation, death by sadness. Along we went, our lives day to day, morning to night. A million mothers, a million fathers, a million sons and daughters screamed at once, and all we heard was the good wind shake the trees out.”