We Were Not Like Other People Summary
by Ephraim Sevela

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We Were Not Like Other People Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Aspects of Jewish life in communist Soviet Union during pre-World War II under the Stalinist purges are, for many people, often topics merely encountered in history texts. We Were Not Like Other People gives life and reality to many of the people and events of that time and place. The story encourages the reader to achieve self-identification with the process of growing up and developing personal moral and ethical values. Despite the differences between the physical and psychological conditions experienced by the main character of the novel and many of its readers, the values illuminated are universal.

Depending on the reader's purposes and background knowledge, the novel can be read at various levels of understanding and enjoyment. It can be read for its entertainment and escape values by the reader who is simply interested in following the gripping adventures of the hero. It can be read for realistic insights into life in a faraway place during a critical time by the reader concerned with developing a context for historical facts. At the same time, the novel includes attention to the universal conflicts associated with growing into adulthood and establishing codes of moral and ethical values. The novel explores the meaning and challenges of determining good and evil, loyalty and faithfulness, freedom and bondage, compassion and lack of pity, love and hate, tolerance and racism. All of these concerns are implicit, not didactically treated in the novel.

The main character of the novel demonstrates outstanding fortitude as he copes with and, somehow, manages to overcome many of the obstacles he encounters as he wanders from place-to-place. He meets characters who are unselfish in sharing their scant possessions and their warmth and wisdom. He also meets characters who are pathetic in their weakness and those determined to pursue their power plays regardless of circumstances. The remarkable dimensions of human nature and the human condition are sensitively and subtly treated in the story.

In many ways an adventure story, action in We Were Not Like Other People is fast-moving, dramatic, often tragic, sometimes humorous, and always compelling. Suspense is high in each episode as the reader is challenged to discover its outcome. Suspense is maintained throughout the story as the eventual fate of the main character is awaited.