Monday, May 2, 2011


It's been a couple of days since I read the last words of Away, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Amy Bloom is an amazing writer. She conveys so much by saying just a little, or by using an unexpected description. And to say that her writing is ambitious in its scope would be a vast understatement. Like the stories of hers that I've read, the characters in this novel are so widely varied yet so vividly drawn that it's hard to believe they all came out of the head of one author.

In Away, we meet Lillian Leyb, a Jewish immigrant who flees to America in the 1920's after her family is killed and her daughter is lost in during a siege on her Russian village. While working as a seamstress in New York, she learns that her daughter may still be alive in Siberia and makes the decision to travel back to Russia, heading across America, through Canada, via the Bering Strait. Along the way, Lillian, a basically good character, falls into one bad situation after another- serving as mistress for both father and son in a prominent theater family, falling in with a prostitute in Seattle, and inadvertently killing a man. By the time she ends up in a Canadian women's prison, about 2/3 of the way through the book, I really felt like I was hitting a wall with her story. All of the things happening to Lillian just started to feel like too much and made me wish that I could just put the book down rather than continue the harrowing journey. I had to push myself to make it to the end.

I think I'll have to settle for admiring, though not necessarily liking, the book. Has this ever happened to you?

And by the way, I'm officially accepting recommendations for any decidedly lighthearted books that I can pick up next.

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