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Sunday, January 11, 2009


Bloom, Amy. Away.

I'm afraid I will be a lone voice of dissent on this novel. At first, I thought I would like it very much, but gradually, I realized that Lillian didn't come off the page for me.

This is the story of Lillian Leyb, a young immigrant who has escaped from Russia after a pogrom in which her parents and husband are brutally murdered. Lillian slipped her young daughter out of the window and told her to hide, but when Lillian looks for her, Sophie seems to have vanished.

The novel begins in New York where Lillian seeks work and becomes involved with a father and son who have a powerful place in the Yiddish theater. When her cousin comes to America and tells her that her daughter is alive, Lillian decides she must get to Siberia where she only half believes Sophie may be.

It is a kind of picaresque novel that follows Lillian from Russia to New York, across the continent to Seattle, and up into Alaska, heading to the Bering Strait which would take Lillian to Siberia.

She meets some curious characters and most of these meetings involve sexual encounters. Bloom carries the stories of most of these characters to a conclusion which is an interesting concept. She tells what happens to them after Lillian leaves. I hesitate to call these characters incidental, because truthfully, they came "alive" in a deeper sense than Lillian.

I never became terribly attached to Lillian, who deliberately or not, maintains her distance. My copy had rather large print and was short, so it made for a quick read.

Fiction. Historical fiction. 2007. 235 pages.


  1. I don't think yours is the only negative review I've seen, but it's been a while since I read another review of Away, so I have no idea who wrote the negatives.

  2. Not everyone loves the same books, so I wouldn't worry about it. I do plan to read this book one of these days, but no big rush.

  3. I'm sorry this one didn't live up to your expectations, Jenclair. I haven't read it, although I've eyed it in the store on occasion. Like Nancy, I'm fairly sure I've read a negative review of it somewhere, which is probably why I haven't actually managed to pick it up.

  4. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this one, Jen. It ended up having mixed reviews from my book club, too. I have been the voice of dissent before myself, as I think we all have, especially when you read a lot. A good friend of mine reads even more than I do it can be hit or miss when it comes to whether or not we both like the same book.

  5. I've actually been hearing some mixed reviews on this one. I have it and am interested in reading it although I didn't realize (or forgot) that it dealt with a missing child - I just finished one book with that premise so I may have to hold off on this one for a bit.

  6. Bookfool - I didn't mean for my review to be entirely negative, but it just didn't live up to my expectations. I wanted to love it.

    Kailana - No, we don't all love the same books, and this one has a lot of admirers, so it would be wise not to dismiss it from my review!

    LF - Funny how some books get such a dichotomy of reactions, isn't it?

    Lesley - :) But isn't it strange how we want everyone to like the books we like? You're right, though, it is often hit or miss, and I've recommended a lot of books that no one else cares for much.

    Iliana - There are certain subjects that I don't like to read to close together, too. Anything that makes me worry about children needs a wide space in between.

  7. I happen to be an admirer of Amy Bloom from her short stories. But "Away" wasn't her best work. In fact, I think she is less spectacular in her novels. I still believe her short stories are brilliant. But she can't seem to maintain that sparkle, that brilliant characterisation in novel.

    I was disappointed with "Away" - which is strangely difficult for me to come to terms with, because I really love her short stories.

  8. Orpheus - I seldom read short stories, but maybe I should try Bloom's to get a more balanced vision of her work!

  9. I reviewed this on LibraryThing before I had a book blog, and I agree with your review 100%. I never felt that Bloom gave Lillian a true emotional response to losing her daughter, which made it impossible for me to relate to her journey.

  10. Ali - She seemed like a vehicle to introduce other characters and a little sex. Such varied opinions of the book!

  11. Jenclair, This is my first visit as I hopped on over from Bookgirl's nightstand. I had the same feelings about Away. I wanted to like it and was very disapointed in the main character. I especially didn't like the ending! I won't post a spoiler but for me, that was a huge disapointment and left me feeling very disenchanted with the whole book.