September 4, 2007


Amy Bloom


(September 4, 2007)

Lillian Leyb, a young Russian Jew, flees a pogrom and winds up in a New York tenement, sharing a bed with angry young Judith and finding work sewing costumes for the Yiddish theater while the theater owner and his son, the star actor, share her as a mistress. In New York, though, she hears that her daughter, lost in the pogrom, might have been saved by a neighbor and taken to Birobidzhan, the Russian Jewish enclave. And so, Lillian plans to travel back to Russia — not by sea, as she came, but overland to Seattle, the Yukon, and across the Bering Straight to Siberia.

Bloom is a lovely writer, and perhaps feels free in the broad vistas of this small novel to stray further from the fascinating pathology of her short stories. Away is a fine series of stories and tableaux, string together by a shared character and by her long, long journey.