Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Away, by Amy Bloom


Away, a novel by Amy Bloom, fell in to my hands at the same time my 4th graders and I are finishing up a thematic unit on immigration. I believe my students appreciated that I too was doing some reading on the topic, and that I was enjoying my novel immensely.

It's the 1920s and Lilian Leyb, the story's heroine, leaves Russia after a pogrom has taken her family, including her small daughter Sophie. Lilian sails to New York City to begin again, passes through Ellis Island, and suffers like so many other immigrants. Her trials, however, are aggravated by the horrific memory of the murders of her family.

Lilian makes do, finds work, and does what she must to to get by. Surviving involves doing things she probably never imagined having to do. The reader can understand the "whatever it takes" attitude one must have in order to eat and have a roof over one's head. But these are not Lilian's only motivations. A cousin arrives from Russia, claiming that little Sophie is alive. And so begins Lilian's quest to reach her daughter in Siberia. The brave heroine embarks on a journey that takes her from New York, to Seattle, to Canada, to Alaska - in the blind hope of finding her child. It's the people she finds along the way though, that make this story a gripping read.

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