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 Yorks Lower East Side, to Seattles Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Blooms 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.
On a purely formal level, Away is stunning, and succeeds as a gleaming showcase for Amy Bloom's considerable talents. However, what makes Away an up-all-night read is its vitality, the breath that makes it all come alive. It’s a tight story – 235 pages span three years and a cast of characters each worthy of their own novel; but the focus is clear - Bloom’s spotlight pans where it needs to, and then stops on a dime, showing you where to look, deep at the quick of the story, where it pulses with life. (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
USA Today - Jocelyn McClurg
[T]here are some wonderful characters and scenes in Amy Bloom's novel about a young Russian Jewish immigrant trying to make a new life in America after the massacre of her family, but Away never transported me to the transcendent heights this talented writer hopes to achieve.
The Daily News - Jane H Furse
In just 248 pages of astonishing prose, Bloom covers vast emotional (and geographic) terrain, giving a familiar story epic proportions.
The Boston Globe - Elinor Lipman
It's not easy to be lyrical, funny, and brilliant all at once, and Bloom is, with a serious bonus: We don't feel any authorial reach to imbue Away with those attributes. A marvelously sly observer of all things human, she has the confidence to write, "Red McGann smiles. It is not the worst smile she will ever see, but it has the kind of tenderness you find on the faces of boys who love their dogs and kick them." Plain, unostentatious words? They accrue on every page into artful and irresistible fiction.
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
[W]hat begins as a paean to the immigrant spirit in a city of millions is ultimately a gasp of wonder at the persistence of love, even in the remotest spot on earth. Hang on.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
It is accessible to the point of pure enthrallment without compromising its eloquence or thematic strength. Yet it is also a classic page-turner, one that delivers a relentlessly good read.
The Seattle Times - Richard Wallace
As one of our most accomplished short-story writers, Bloom has demonstrated time and again in her fiction how transformative this multidimensional emotion called love can be, shaping unlikely friendships, challenging whom we think people are. Bloom understands the complexity of human bonding. Her gift — beyond her ability to write interesting, surprising sentences — is to develop situations where people open up, often during moments of loss and tragedy, certainly in rough times, and create solutions to their desires and pain that aren't readily obvious.
The San Francisco Chronicle - Helen McAlpin
Bloom's cryptic title doesn't do her book justice, but there's little else that doesn't work in this exquisitely unsentimental novel about exile, hope and love in its various incarnations - maternal, romantic, sexual, platonic, inconvenient, unruly, unreasonable, abiding.
Starred Review. Bloom has created an extraordinary range of characters, settings and emotions. Absolutely stunning.
The Guardian (UK) - Liz Hoggard
[A] page-turner. At only 240 pages, it has the rich texture of an epic, but Bloom doesn't hang about. Like her heroine, Lillian Leyb, she crosses cultures and continents at a breakneck pace, only pausing when Lillian has to barter her skills (or her body) for the next leg of the journey.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Janet Tarasovic Swept Away Lillian Leyb is a remarkable heroine whose passion, courage, and determination are inspiring. Equally enthralling are the dozen characters whose lives intersect with hers—actors, immigrants, jailbirds, train porters, prostitutes, constables,... Read More
Rated of 5
by J. Arnold Outstanding 2nd Novel! Amy Bloom’s enthralling second novel, Away, evokes Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. Both books explore the seemingly impossible journeys of two protagonists longing for love, redemption, and identify associated with memories. Arresting characters... Read More
(Away opens with Lillian arriving in New York in
1924, where she quickly finds a job as a seamstress for a famous Yiddish
theatre, and becomes the mistress of its star actor.)
More than 200 Yiddish theatre troupes performed in the
United States between 1890 and 1940 (photo
theater group in 1909). In their heyday in the 1920s, twelve
troupes resided in New York City alone, with 22 Yiddish theatres on the Lower
East Side, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Their repertoires spanned a variety of
genres including operetta, musical comedy, revues, melodrama and Yiddish
adaptations of Shakespeare. Audiences came to laugh and be entertained, but a
vibrant literary culture also led to adaptations of Ibsen, Tolstoy, and Shaw
running in Yiddish houses long before they appeared on Broadway. By the
mid-1920s, Yiddish actors played to packed houses, many of their patrons solely
English-speaking and paying Broadway prices for seats.
With roots in the satiric plays performed during the Jewish...
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