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Away Cover

ISBN13: 9780812977790
ISBN10: 0812977793
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Dreams are a recurring theme in the novel. What are Lillians dreams, both literal and metaphorical? How do these illustrate or inform the larger subject of the American dream?

2. Much of the novel centers around self-invention and -reinvention. Can you identify some characters who reinvent themselves over the course of the novel? Which characters are successful? Which characters are unable to complete the process?

3. According to folktales, “when you save the golden fish, the turbaned djinn, the talking cat, he is yours forever” (p. 43). Which characters in the novel are saved, in one way or another? Which characters do the saving?

4. “Not that she is mine.That I am hers,”Lillian says,describing her love for Sophie (p. 79). In many ways, love is the primary engine of the plot. How does love define, inspire, and compel characters in the novel? What are some of the things characters do for love? Do you think that love is portrayed in the novel as a wholly positive force?

5. Contrast Yaakovs story with Lillians. How do they each handle the loss of spouse and children, and how are they changed?

6. During Lillians journey, there are key points at which she is required to identify herself as either a native or a foreigner, insider or outsider. Can you point out some of these moments? At the end of the novel, how complete is Lillians assimilation?

7. Relationships among family members, particularly parents and children, play an important role in the novel. Compare and contrast the relationships between Lillian and Sophie, Reuben and Meyer, Chinky and the Changs. What is distinct about each family? Are there similarities?

8. How are sexuality and physical love portrayed in the novel? Consider Lillians relationship with the Bursteins, Chinkys relationship with Mrs. Mortimer, and Gumdrops relationship with Snooky Salt, as well as Lillians relationship with John Bishop and Chinkys relationship with Cleveland Munson.

9. What kind of person is Lillian? What do we learn, throughout the novel, about her passions and prejudices? Do you think Lillian is right when she says that she is lucky (p. 4)?

10. The metaphors and descriptive images in this novel are unique. Can you point out a few effective metaphors that helped the novel come alive for you as a reader?

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

Melinda Ott, November 18, 2014 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
I really, really thought I would love this book. The summary sounded fascinating and I was quickly pulled in by Bloom's writing. She has a poetic voice that I found hypnotic. Unfortunately, that was not enough to save this book for me.

I tried to put my finger on what went wrong for me and I came up with two big problem areas. The first was the story itself. From the summary, it sounds like this is one of those vast novels, but then you look and the book is less than 300 pages. There are basically 3 sections of this book--New York, Seattle, and Canada/Alaska and Bloom just sort of drops the reader in each one--and I had a lot of trouble buying how Lillian got to Seattle and then to Alaska. Bloom also dives a bit in to the world of the soap opera dramatics, which did not appeal to me. I felt that a lot of what happens to Lillian just wasn't necessary and I would have rather that Bloom had used those pages for something else.

The other problem was Lillian herself. I just never felt any connection with or sympathy for her--which is strange because I can understand the desire to find your child, but it just didn't ring true for me with Lillian. I never felt that I was able to get into her enough to feel her compulsion to go on her trek to find her daughter. Instead, she seemed like such a survivor (and I don't mean that in an entirely positive sense) that I couldn't see her give up her comforts to return for a daughter she was told was dead.

It's a shame as I think that Bloom is a fantastic writer and this book sounded great, but it just didn't work for me.
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Teresa Borden, April 27, 2013 (view all comments by Teresa Borden)
Fascinating story about Lillian Leyb's journey from Russia,(where she survived the massacre of her husband and family and lost her young daughter,) to New York, then Chicago and Seattle, all the way up into Alaska on a focused quest to find her daughter, who she finds out may still be alive. Amazing evocation of the 20s era across the nation. Bittersweet ending which struck my heart, with love at last perhaps a compensation for her loss.
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Paige Dollinger, August 16, 2012 (view all comments by Paige Dollinger)
What a captivating read. Amy Bloom is so good at character development. Her characters have flaws but also elements to their personality that makes the reader empathize with them and want to root for them. Away is full of life - an excellent drama that one could easily read in a weekend. I cannot wait until Ms. Bloom's next novel!
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Product Details

Bloom, Amy
Random House Trade
Quests (Expeditions)
Psychological fiction
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
fiction;immigrants;historical fiction;alaska;russia;new york;jews;novel;new york city;historical;1920s;journey;literary fiction;pogroms;immigration;women;contemporary fiction;usa;pogrom;travel;america;american;judaism;lost child;seattle;motherhood;sex;que
fiction;immigrants;historical fiction;alaska;russia;new york;jews;novel;new york city;historical;1920s;journey;pogroms;literary fiction;immigration;women;contemporary fiction;usa;pogrom;travel;american;america;judaism;lost child;quest;motherhood;seattle;l
fiction;immigrants;historical fiction;alaska;russia;new york;jews;novel;new york city;historical;1920s;journey;pogroms;literary fiction;immigration;women;contemporary fiction;usa;pogrom;travel;american;america;judaism;lost child;quest;motherhood;seattle;l
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
A&#8221;<br><b><i>&#8211;ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY<br><
8.00x5.56x.55 in. .43 lbs.

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Away Used Trade Paper
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$1.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812977790 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Lyrical and moving, terribly sad but funny, too, Away is a major accomplishment and a pleasure to read. Amy Bloom's language is precise and graceful, and her characters and their journeys make America in the 1920s shine with life.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'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 (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "[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)"
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
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