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.