WE WERE NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE by Ephraim Sevela
Kirkus Star

WE WERE NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An adolescent Jewish boy relates his harrowing experiences in the Soviet Union during WW II, in an excellent translation; Bouis also translated Baklanov's Forever Nineteen (p. 685/C--107). The unnamed narrator's father, an army officer, is arrested during Stalin's prewar purge. As the remainder of the family flees the German invasion, the boy is blown off a flatcar and thus, at 12, is ""left for the first time, without. . .parents, without. . .teachers. Without supervision."" During the next six years, he works with other orphans in a factory in the Urals, where the boys must stand on crates to reach the machines; rides freight trains; heads a mowing brigade of women in Siberia: and serves in the army as it wreaks vengeance on the Germans during the final invasion. Always hungry, living by his wits, he is often the victim of cruelty and sometimes cruel himself; yet kindness, received and given, also flowers in the most unlikely circumstances. In a matter-of-fact tone that is vividly descriptive of mood as well as of sensory impressions but that downplays emotion, Sevela relates these experiences as a series of vignettes. Thus the boy would keep his sanity: absorbing, remembering, occasionally giving way to tears: but remaining strong, constrained, and directing his deepest energies toward survival. A stark, powerful book in which even the unexpected happy ending is believable: survivors like this boy ""were not like other people.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1989
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Harper