Random House Trade, 9780812977790, 247pp.
Publication Date: June 24, 2008
Fall '08/Winter '09 Reading Group List
— Andrea Avantaggio, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, CO
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About the Author
Praise For Away…
Praise for Away
PRAISE FOR AWAY
“AWAY is a modest name for a book as gloriously transporting as Amy Bloom’s new novel. Alive with incident and unforgettable characters, it sparkles and illuminates as brilliantly as it entertains… AWAY is a literary triumph, a book-club must and a popular novel destined for wide readership. It is accessible to the point of pure enthrallment without compromising its eloquence or thematic strength. Yet it is also a classic page-turner, one that delivers a relentlessly good read.”
–NEW YORK TIMES
“Amy Bloom knows the urgency of love. As a practicing psychotherapist, she must have heard that urgency in her patients’ stories, and in 1993 when she broke onto the literary scene with Come To Me, we heard it in hers. She has never strayed from that theme…Bloom writes with extraordinary care about people caught in emotional and physical crosswinds: desires they can’t satisfy, illnesses they can’t survive, and–always–love that exceeds the boundaries of this world…this whole novel reads like dry wood bursting into flame: desperate and impassioned, erotic and moving–absolutely hypnotic.”
–COVER OF WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
“With her sly sense of humor and flair for precise, elegant language, acclaimed author Bloom fashions a spellbinding story of courage and unwavering optimism in the face of daunting odds.”
“Her execution is exquisite, and exquisite execution is rare–not only in books but (alas) in almost any undertaking…The pleasures of AWAY are the ordinary pleasures of extraordinary novels: finely wrought prose, vivid characters, delectable details. There’s a soft-smile, along-the-way humor…A practicing psychotherapist, this author combines eloquence with insight.”
–COVER OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK WORLD
“By the end of this memorable, panoramic novel, Bloom transforms the musts in Lillian’s life into a Scheherazade-like procession of cans that encapsulate all the cultural richness that newcomers contributed to this nation of immigrants in the early part of the 20th century. Grade: A”
“Far and away one of the best books of the year… Once in a great while, a work of art–a poem, a painting, a book–will register in the chest cavity, producing an ache of recognition and pleasure. AWAY by Amy Bloom is such a book… a surprising, tough and incandescent book.”
–CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
“Amy Bloom is blessed with a generous heart and a brilliant imagination, which is evident once again in her fifth and best book so far, AWAY…The vividness and tenderness with which Bloom tells this story is stunning. Bloom, who teaches writing at Yale University and is also a practicing psychotherapist, has an innate understanding of the complexity of the human heart and in Lillian, she has created her most compelling character yet.”
“So vivid and engaging, so delicious in tone, that a reader experiences an immediate thrill, the all-too-rare one that signals: I am in excellent hands here… The language that Bloom employs to tell Lillian’s story is immediate, colorful, and unafraid to be plain…It’s not easy to be lyrical, funny, and brilliant all at once, and Bloom is.”
“Rousing, utterly absorbing… a compact epic, an adventure story, a survival tale and an incredible journey wrapped up in a historical novel cloaked in a love story… exquisitely unsentimental novel about exile, hope and love in its various incarnations — maternal, romantic, sexual, platonic, inconvenient, unruly, unreasonable, abiding.”
–SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
“A powerful new novel of loss and love, of hope and struggle…amazing…AWAY is a short novel, but it feels packed to the rafters with fully-realized character, with America, with all the things that don’t fit inside the vessel we’ve taken to calling the American Dream…unforgettable.”
–LOUISVILLE COURIER JOURNAL
“Blom executes Lillian’s tale with the same fresh eye with which a master cinematographer captures a familiar landscape…In just 248 pages of astonishing prose, Bloom covers vast emotional (and geographic) terrain, giving a familiar story epic proportions.”
–NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
“Fascinating…a tough, engaging book.”
“Outstanding…A sweeping saga of endurance and rebirth. Encompassing prison, prostitution and poetry, Yiddish humor and Yukon settings, Bloom’s tale offers linguistic twists, startling imagery, sharp wit and a compelling vision of the past. Bloom has created an extraordinary range of characters, settings and emotions. Absolutely stunning.”
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, STARRED REVIEW
“Summary doesn’t do justice to this compact epic’s richness of episode and characterization, nor to the exemplary skill with which Bloom increases her story’s resonance through dramatic foreshadowing of what lies ahead for her grifters and whores and romantic visionaries and stubborn, hard-bitten adventurers. Echoes of Ragtime, Cold Mountain and Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers, in an amazingly dense, impressively original novel.”
– KIRKUS REVIEWS, STARRED REVIEW
“A masterly second novel…the writing is spare and tender, with revelatory doses of irony….A novel this gorgeous doesn’t need humor, but what’s better than laughing off a good cry? AWAY is a story to sink your heart into.”
“Bloom attempts a sweeping historical epic and succeeds…Haunting.”
“A novel laced with heartache, but also a strong thread of hope.”
“This beautiful, effulgent book sped me forward word by word, out of the room I was in and into Amy Bloom’s world. This is a wonderful novel, a cosmos that transcends its time period and grabs us without compromise. Lillian’s astonishing journey, driven by a mother’s love, will be with me for a long, long time.”
–Ron Carlson, author of The Speed of Light
“I haven’t read a novel in a long time that I genuinely wanted to get back to, just to sit down and read for the pure joy of it. Away is a book full of tender wisdom, brawling insight, sharp-edged humor and–if it’s possible–a lovely, wayward precision. Amy Bloom has created an unforgettable cast of characters. Lillian, the heroine, or anti-heroine, somehow always manages to do what great journeys always do–continue. A marvelous book.”
–Colum McCann, author of Zoli
“Raunchy, funny, and touching, Away is an elegant window into the perils of self-invention and reinvention in New York in the 1920s. Amy Bloom’s heroine, Lillian, is an unforgettable young woman on a quest to make her life whole and to belong in an unstable, yet fascinating, new American world.”
–Caryl Phillips, author of A Distant Shore
“Amy Bloom’s work has always revolved around what love and desire can make us do. In Away, she paints filial love on an immense geographic and historical canvas. The result, a story of loss and survival, is gripping.”
–Christopher Tilghman, author of Roads of the Heart
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Dreams are a recurring theme in the novel. What are Lillian's dreams, both literal and metaphorical? How do these illustrate or inform the larger subject of the American dream?
- Much of the novel centers around self-invention and reinvention. Can you identify some characters who invent themselves over the course of the novel? Which characters are successful? Which characters are unable to complete the process?
- According to folktales, "when you save the golden fish, the turbaned djinn, the talking cat, he is yours forever" (p. 43). Which characters in the novel are saved, in one way or another? Which characters do the saving?
- "Not that she is mine. That I am hers," Lillian says, describing her love for Sophie (p. 79). In many ways, love is the primary engine of the plot. How does love define, inspire, and compel characters in the novel? What are some of the things characters do for love? Do you think that love is portrayed in the novel as a wholly positive force?
- Contrast Yaakov's story with Lillian's. How do they each handle the loss of spouse and children, and how are they changed?
- Mythology–both the mythology of individuals and of cultures–is an important motivator in the novel. Which stories or beliefs drive different characters? How do established myths inform the journeys taken and the challenges faced by Lillian as she crosses the American continent?
- During Lillian's journey, there are key points at which she is required to demonstrate her allegiance as either a native or a foreigner, insider or outsider. Can you identify some of these moments? At the end of the novel, how complete is Lillian's assimilation?
- Relationships between family members, particularly parents and children, play an important role in the novel. Compare and contrast the relationships between Lillian and Sophie, Reuben and Meyer, Chinky and the Changs. What is distinct about each family? Are there similarities?
- How are sexuality and physical love portrayed in the novel? Consider Lillian's relationship with the Bursteins, Chinky's relationship with Mrs. Mortimer, and Gumdrop's relationship with Snooky Salt, as well as Lillian's relationship with John Bishop and Chinky's relationship with Cleveland Munson.
- What kind of person is Lillian? What do we learn, throughout the novel, about her passions and prejudices? Do you think Lillian is right when she says that she is lucky (p. 4)?
- The omniscient third-person narrator of the novel is able to jump forward and backward in time and between parallel narratives. What is the purpose of this technique? Why does the author want us to know what happened to Sophie, even though Lillian herself never learns? Do you think Lillian ever stopped looking for Sophie?
- The metaphors and descriptive images in this novel are unique. Can you point out a few effective metaphors that helped the novel come alive for you as a reader?
- What significance do the chapter titles have? What are they derived from, and what do they tell the reader about what happens in the novel? Why did Bloom title her novel Away?