Tag Archives: Amy Bloom

Review: Away: A Novel

Away is a novel of epic proportions, panoramic in its landscape and a saga covering two years in the life of Lillian Leyb. Leyb is a Russian immigrant, who has fled the pograms. Her parents and husband were murdered, and as far as she knows, her precious, toddler daughter, Sophie, has been murdered also. She has emigrated to New York City to start a new life, and is very determined to assimilate and reinvent herself.

We witness her go through many changes in her desire to weave her way through the tapestries of 1920s New York City.

Survival is at the foremost in her mind. When she thinks that she has found a niche, a place of comfort where she has the essentials such as food, shelter and clothing, her life takes a turn due to some news she has found out.

Lillian’s cousin emigrates and informs her that Lillian’s daughter, Sophie, is still alive. This sparks an intense desire and passion in Lillian to try to trek to Siberia, in order to find her daughter. Lillian goes to the extremes in order to do so, trekking through expanses of land that are not inhabited, in order to make her way to try to find her daughter. Along the way she meets people of varying status and mores.

This does not deter Lillian, for she is determined to find Sophie no matter what she has to do. It might sound insane, unattainable, and sound like a journey without a happy ending, but as far as Lillian is concerned, it is one she must make.

Away, by Amy Bloom, is a novel depicting the plight of the Russian immigrant. Bloom depicts the social mores, and the ways that immigrants assimilate in order to become part of the society and country they so strongly want to live in. Away has the protaganist reinventing herself to fit her environment, only to return to her true identity.

Bloom has given us a descriptive and clear painting of love and longing, passion and strength, assimilation and identity. Her characters are flawed, but that is to be expected, as in reality, none of us are perfect. And, for those who can’t understand Lillian’s fierce will and determination, they have missed a vital part of the novel. Most of us would go to the ends of the earth to find our child, if we were in the same situation that Lillian was in, no matter how absurd it might seem. Bloom understands this, and writes with eloquence, and gives us an emotionally breathtaking novel, filled with bits of humor and filled with heart-wrenching moments within the vast expanse and panorama of America.

I have read a more recent book of Amy Bloom’s, entitled Lucky Us, and you can read my review of it, here.

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Review: Lucky Us

luckyus picture Lucky Us, by Amy Bloom, is a thought-provoking novel in many aspects, even through the splashes of humor that created waves of laughter in this reader.

The story line is wonderfully depicted through the two half-sisters, Eva and Iris. They eventually begin a journey across America, from Ohio to California and then to New York City during the 1940s. The somewhat of a farcical story starts at that point in time. Iris is the older of the two, and has visions of becoming a movie star. She is quite efficient at presenting herself to the movie industry world. Eva is more quiet, the type who is along for the ride in the realm of her half-sister’s journey.

I enjoyed the dynamics between the two half-sisters, and how their awkward relationship began, to how it eventually developed. I felt the family dynamics were illuminated quite vividly. Identity is an underlying tone between the sisters, and between some of the other characters.

A man named Francisco befriends Iris during her forays into auditioning and into acting in small roles. He is reliable and becomes attached to the sisters. He becomes a strong force in a familial way.

World War II also becomes part of the story, in Lucky Us, within pages of the last half of the novel. One of the characters is of German descent and is looked upon as less than desirable to the American authorities. He is dealt with in a manner that reflected a basic mode of authoritative hysteria (in my opinion).

America during the 1940s is portrayed quite vividly, from small town America to the big cities in California and New York. The differences in lifestyle between one coast and the other is well-defined. Cultural diversity, morality and social mores are studied within the story.

I enjoyed the novel’s reference to family, and how blood bonds are not necessarily the strong ones that define a family. A family can consist of those we choose to call family members. Often, those bonds can be more of a foundation than the individuals we inherit through ancestral lineage. Those interactions and strengths can last indefinitely and be unconditional in expectations.

The novel jumps back and forth between individuals, correspondence both sent and received, and twists and turns in the lives of the sisters. It vividly depicts the 1940s era of time, and the varied expressions of daily living, including social mores and stigmas.

The book cover is very symbolic. The zebra is an animal representative of balance, strength and individuality. It sees things without filters or flaws, in other words, black and white. The lion is representative of royalty (“king of beasts”), power, courage, authority and so much more. Symbolism is strong within the pages, and the animals depicted on the cover accurately define varied characters.

Amy Bloom’s writing is beautiful, brilliant and often breathtaking. She articulates with precision, yet the precision does not overrule the stunning prose.

Lucky Us
will be released July 29, 2014. I received Lucky Us as a complimentary Advanced Review Copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program, and from Random House. Thank you very much.

I enjoyed this novel! I recommend Lucky Us.

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