Published: June 24, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Goodreads First Reads Program
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 York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Bloom’s 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.
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.
I won a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads Program. I was encouraged, but not required, to post an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.