Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews
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Awayby Amy Bloom
Lillian Leyb's family was killed in a particularly grim pogrom in Turov, Russia in the 1920's, but Lillian herself manages to escape and arrive in New York City thanks to an address someone had given her of an aunt who would, presumably, take her in. Before leaving she had searched ten miles up and down the river "poking a stick through promising debris" looking for Sophie, her two year old daughter. "She searched for days. Christian women pulled their little girls close when she walked by, even when she was across the road; they must have read her rage as clearly as if they'd seen her father's hatchet in her hands."
This is the search which guides the path of Lillian Leyb in America. She had been told by a cousin that someone had seen Sophie being snatched up and rescued by the Pinsky couple.
The story takes her across the entire continent starting on the lower East Side of Manhattan, to Seattle's Skid Row, on to Alaska along the Telegraph Trail towards Siberia. On this trail she stops only when the money runs out or the situations become too dangerous, the men too hurtful, her anguish too great.
There are many stories of her adventures, each beautifully told, each heartrending and grim in their settings across the poverty-strewn path of immigrant life in the 1920s among the left-overs of american society.
Amy Bloom writes with humor, deep sympathy, lots of detail thoroughly convincing you of these settings. I found it to be both a pleasure and a learning experience. I have read my share of immigrant literature, but this book is fresh, revealing a story in an entirely new environment.