by Amy Bloom
This is not your usual immigrant novel, where the good girl resists all evil and prevails. Lillian does prevail. She arrives in New York in the 1920s, a shell of a woman after witnessing the butchering of her husband and parents and the disappearance of her young daughter. Life is a matter of survival and not much else.
"The two men move through the crowd like gardeners inspecting the flower beds of English estates, like plantation owners on market day. Whatever it is like, Lillian doesn't care. She will be the flower, the slave, the pretty thing or the despised and necessary thing, as long as she is the thing chosen from among the other things..." She is chosen. She is loved by one, used by another, and adored by yet another. Until she hears a rumor that her daughter is alive and living in Siberia. Then the tale becomes picaresque as Lillian leaves New York and heads to Alaska to cross back into Russia.
Amy Bloom is a bard. She sings the song of Lillian, unfolding unexpected episode after unexpected episode. The song is stirring and imaginative. Characters enter briefly and remain behind as Lillian moves on. Reminiscent of E. L. Doctorow, Bloom tells us in delicious paragraphs how these interesting characters play out. Not everyone in this adventure lives happily ever after, but the writing is so captivating that Away is hard to put down.
Amy Bloom has written other books, including a National Book Award finalist and one nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as nonfiction. She teaches creative writing at Yale, where she is a fellow of Calhoun College. Visit her website.
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