Anne Cervenka, April 1, 2008 (view all comments by Anne Cervenka)
No wonder Amy Bloom is winning all those book prizes. I was with Russian immigrant Lillian Leyb every step of the way from New York to Dawson City. The stories within the story could only have come from a poets heart.
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awisehart, December 26, 2007 (view all comments by awisehart)
A lyrical, beautifully written epic novel that brings to life the immigrant experience in America in the 1920s. I was captivated and transported by this novel and its vibrant, compelling heroine.
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natti, October 1, 2007 (view all comments by natti)
This book did not hold my interest at all. I had received it as an early review and wondered what I missed upon reading so many positive comments during the initial 'push' of this book. I wondered if I read the same book as everyone else. Glad to see I'm not the only one with this opinion...
This novel portrays the lengths a person would go through when there is a strong enough motivation. Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to get through as I really had a hard time caring about the protagonist, Lillian Leyb. The story had a base which should have made you care ...and it did in the beginning. Lillian witnesses her entire family being murdered during a horrible Russian pogrom. The reader is not given any background on the actual event ...only in nightmares is the night retold. The daughter she tried to hide is believed to be dead along with her other family members. With no future in Russia, Lillian comes to America to start a new life with the help of a cousin already in New York.
Upon Lillian's arrival to New York you start to see the pattern her life takes when faced with different challenges ...she rises to them and accepts them for what they are ...a means to continue forward. However, for me this is where I start to become less interested in Lillian. At the point she is given the news that her daughter may still be alive, I had hoped to see Lillian become more vulnerable, allowing the reader to empathize with her as she begins her journey to find her daughter. Instead it felt as though Lillian is very one-dimensional. She is the vehicle used to introduce us to some interesting supporting characters. For many of these characters, you were given a summary of their life after Lillian has walked out of it. As the story ...and supporting characters... progressed, I began looking forward to the summary of Lillian's life...just to be done. My advice... skip it and read Tino Georgiou's masterful--The Fates. At least you'll get some enjoyment for your value.
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Bartbartman, August 22, 2007 (view all comments by Bartbartman)
I had never read this author before but through a special promotion I received an advance copy of this novel (this did not influence my feelings for the book, but I do think it should be fully disclosed). This is an extraordinary story of a young woman who comes to America from Russia after her family is destroyed. Young Lillian Leyb arrives in 1920's New York City and is taken in by a famous impresario and his movie star son. Lillian however, gets news about her daughter Sophie. This chain of events sends Lillian on a trip across America all the way to Alaska! Lillian’s pluck and guile serve her well in this odyssey, of which Bloom paints a surprising picture of 1920's America. I won’t ruin the story but the plot is epic and the characters jump to life, especially Lillian who is one of my favorite female literary characters since Molly Mendoza of “Across the High Lonesome.” I highly recommend “Away!” And also "Across the High Lonesome" for an epic story set in the modern American west.
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Random House -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"'Life is no party for Lillian Leyb, the 22-year-old Jewish immigrant protagonist of Bloom's outstanding fifth novel: her husband and parents were killed in a Russian pogrom, and the same violent episode separated her from her three-year-old daughter, Sophie. Arriving in New York in 1924, Lillian dreams of Sophie, and after five weeks in America, barely speaking English, she outmaneuvers a line of applicants for a seamstress job at the Goldfadn Yiddish Theatre, where she becomes the mistress of both handsome lead actor Meyer Burstein and his very connected father, Reuben. Her only friend in New York, tailor/actor/playwright Yaakov Shimmelman, gives her a thesaurus and coaches her on American culture. In a last, loving, gesture after receiving word that Sophie is living in Siberia, Yaakov secures Lillian passage out of New York to begin her quest to find Sophie. The journey — through Chicago by train, into Seattle's African-American underworld and across the Alaskan wilderness — elevates Bloom's novel from familiar immigrant chronicle to sweeping saga of endurance and rebirth. Encompassing prison, prostitution and poetry, Yiddish humor and Yukon settings, Bloom's tale offers linguistic twists, startling imagery, sharp wit and a compelling vision of the past. Bloom has created an extraordinary range of characters, settings and emotions. Absolutely stunning.' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
by Janet Maslin, The New York Times,
"Away is a modest name for a book as gloriously transporting as Amy Bloom's new novel. Alive with incident and unforgettable characters, it sparkles and illuminates as brilliantly as it entertains....[A] literary triumph..."
by Lionel Shriver, The Los Angeles Times,
"[Bloom's] execution is exquisite, and exquisite execution is rare....The pleasures of Away are the ordinary pleasures of extraordinary novels: finely wrought prose, vivid characters, delectable details....Working comfortably within a conventional form, she renews and redeems it."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"[A] memorable, panoramic novel...that encapsulate[s] all the cultural richness that newcomers contributed to this nation of immigrants....[L]ike the best of artists, Bloom...tells the truth freely, and with a warmth that melts all fears. (Grade: A)"
by Minneapolis Star Tribune,
"[A] magnificent, transcendent work of the imagination. It is the first must-read novel of the fall....Bloom has always been an economical writer — more attuned to characters' lives than the backdrop against which they unfold. In Away, however, she manages to do both..."
by Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World,
"[T]his whole novel reads like dry wood bursting into flame: desperate and impassioned, erotic and moving — absolutely hypnotic....The whole saga hurtles along, a rush of horrible, remarkable ordeals..."
by Ron Carlson, author of The Speed of Light,
"This beautiful, effulgent book sped me forward word by word, out of the room I was in and into Amy Bloom's world. This is a wonderful novel, a cosmos that transcends its time period and grabs us without compromise. Lillian's astonishing journey, driven by a mother's love, will be with me for a long, long time."
by Colum McCann, author of Zoli,
"I haven't read a novel in a long time that I genuinely wanted to get back to, just to sit down and read for the pure joy of it. Away is a book full of tender wisdom, brawling insight, sharp-edged humor and — if it's possible — a lovely, wayward precision. Amy Bloom has created an unforgettable cast of characters. Lillian, the heroine, or anti-heroine, somehow always manages to do what great journeys always do — continue. A marvelous book."
by Caryl Phillips, author of A Distant Shore,
"Raunchy, funny, and touching, Away is an elegant window into the perils of self-invention and reinvention in New York in the 1920s. Amy Bloom's heroine, Lillian, is an unforgettable young woman on a quest to make her life whole and to belong in an unstable, yet fascinating, new American world."
by Christopher Tilghman, author of Roads of the Heart,
"Amy Bloom's work has always revolved around what love and desire can make us do. In Away, she paints filial love on an immense geographic and historical canvas. The result, a story of loss and survival, is gripping."
by Hartford Courant,
"The vividness and tenderness with which Bloom tells this story is stunning. Bloom...has an innate understanding of the complexity of the human heart and in Lillian, she has created her most compelling character yet."
by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
"Amy Bloom's new book is an eventful novel. In its 236 pages are countless thefts, prostitutions, murders and suicides....Bloom's apparent research into the East Village, Jewish theater and life in New York is fascinating, worth a novel of its own."
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"Once in a great while, a work of art...will register in the chest cavity, producing an ache of recognition and pleasure. Away...is such a book....With so much of contemporary fiction driven on the rails of dialogue...Bloom instead builds a book out of what goes unsaid but is vividly understood."
In this brilliant new novel, which is at once heartbreaking, romantic, and completely unforgettable, Bloom pens the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, who after her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land.
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