And Then We Were Alone is a continuation of Altaras’s first novel Maricika’s Revenge, but it also stands on its own. It begins with the sudden death of Maricika, the author’s much-loved mother, and maps the lives of her husband and her son who have been “left alone,” showing how they cope. The narrator’s father is a hard man, egocentric, callous and dependent, who came to Israel from Romania the early 1950s. He never learned Hebrew but has nevertheless managed well. Soon after his wife’s death he finds a widow who speaks his language and moves in with her.
A gaping chasm separates him from his Tel Aviv-born son, who seeks out various father-figures, and they shape his spiritual world and wield considerable influence over his life. From the point of view of the narrator-son, he and his father are as far apart as Bucharest is from Tel Aviv, but it slowly dawns on the reader that the distance is not so great at all. The surprising similarities between the two lives—the son’s decision to leave Israel, to live and study in Italy, for example—shed new light on the course of events and add an ironic dimension as well as psychological complexity to the narrative. The son’s first—and unsuccessful—marriage reveals different aspects of his personality. Yet despite his negative attitude toward his father, he continues to fulfill his filial duties.
And Then We Were Alone is a mature work, lucid and meticulous.
This book works!... Pure realism with characters whose lives are shaped by compromise and unglamorous survival tactics.
Written with great sensitivity and astonishing skill, it truly endeared itself to me.
Kol Israel 2
I can say with certainty that everyone who liked Maricika’s Revenge will love this book as well.