Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
Amy Bloom's AWAY is as big, complicated, beautiful, awful, funny, despairing and messy as life itself.
From the back of the book:
Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Bloom’s work–her humor and wit, her elegant and irreverent language, her unflinching understanding of passion and the human heart–come together in the embrace of this brilliant novel, which is at once heartbreaking, romantic, and completely unforgettable.
This is the second of Bloom's books I've read. The first was her collection of short stories, WHERE THE GOD OF LOVE HANGS OUT, and I'm happy to report she is as good a novelist as she is a short story writer.
Bloom is a psychotherapist, and her knowledge of how the human mind and psyche work serve her well as a writer. Actions here feel credible, even in extraordinary circumstances. The author's understanding of what motives people is put to excellent use.
Then too, the landscape and historical period is well-depicted, and she, like her heroine covers a lot of ground -- from Russia to New York to Dawson, from Jewish immigrants to Tlingits living in a B.C. cabin.
I am impressed by Bloom's use of the third person omniscient, which is a point of view easy to get wrong. There is perhaps one misstep, when she veers a little farther off-track than is necessary with the story of a woman named "Chinky Chang". It's interesting and moving, but in the end made me anxious to get back to Lillian. For the most part, however, she manages it admirably, and it gives the book not only a depth that mirrors the vast geographical territory it covers, but also the spiritual and psychological landscape.
On top of that, it was a riveting read that had me turning pages quickly. Enjoy.