Last weekend I devoured Amy Bloom's newest novel, Away. Honestly, I'm a little in love with Bloom's writing; every sentence of hers has its own heartbeat. Away follows Lillian Leyb, an immigrant in New York fresh from Russia, where she survived a pogram massacre that her mother, father and husband did not. Lillian is haunted by the memory of her daughter, whose fate the night of the pogram was never absolutely resolved. Upon hearing from an unreliable cousin that her daughter is alive in Russia, she abandons her comfortable but imperfect life for a journey of biblical proportions, by foot, across the United States and Canada, to Siberia. Away parades a cast of painfully flawed but recognizable survivors, who come and go from Lillian's own life as she pushes forward, churning out more memories, ghosts and human connections.
I saw (stalked) Amy Bloom when she read at Powell's at the end of September. She explained that Away's plot was the result of her father reading an article about a woman who had walked from New York to Russia in the early 1900s. He asked Bloom what kind of woman would do something like that? He brought it up so often that eventually, Bloom started writing about that woman, if only to have an answer to his question. She said the only honest motive to some reckless journey like that could be love. But Away sticks with you because Bloom complicates love for what it really is, or what Away's characters imagine love could have been - if only. As Yaakov, a friend of Vivian's explains it, "'Before,' he says, 'when I was alive, I was a schmuck. Now I am the beautiful corpse. I am a waltzing cadaver. You know,' And Vivian does."