Monday, February 2, 2009

Away, Amy Bloom

Well, maybe not "lighter", but at least this story goes a long way in restoring my faith in the strength of the human spirit.

Lillian Leyb comes to America after her family is viciously murdered in pogrom in Russia, a scene which plays out over and over in her mind in vivid and frightening detail throughout the book. She flees to a life in New York's Yiddish theater district, becoming mistress to both a theater owner and his son, while trying to put the memories of the past behind her. Until.

She learned that possibly, possibly, her daughter survived the pogrom and is currently living in Siberia with a family who rescued her. Without hesitation, Lillian leaves New York City and sets out across the country, from New York to Seattle to Alaska and to the Bering Strait. The intensity with which she strives towards this goal is heart-rending. Any parent wants to believe they'd do the same; under-take any obstacle or trial of strength and perseverance. But to travel in a railroad car broom closet, psyche out pimps and prostitutes, walk from Alaska to Russia (yes, I know Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, but still), with only the faintest hope of making the trip in one piece and with no set information about where to find your child? In Siberia?

The book falls short of being epic only because it's just too short. I wanted the book to be 500+ pages; I wanted there to be detail, more character development, more everything. I wanted more of Lillian's history, more scenes going across the country, more interactions with other characters.

My favorite part of the book, aside from Lillian herself and her fierce determination, was the way Bloom provides an epilogue for each character Lillian encounters, after she leaves them. As though their lives, after being touched by her, are set on a certain path and Bloom must let you know what comes of them, even though Lillian never will. It was brilliant and it made each character seem so much more real than they would have if they'd simply ceased to exist in the book's world once Lillian moved on.

So not really the "light" book I said I was going to read (I started Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People, but wasn't really feeling it), but it was well worth the emotional energy I spent on it.

1 comment:

KMW said...

I liked this book a lot. My favorite part was when she got to Alaska and met John. I'm hoplessly romantic.