by Amy Bloom
Lillian Leyb has come a long way. Something nightmarish has happened to her, far away in the Russian village where she grew up, and we learn of it just that way, in her nightmares; she's reluctant to talk about it with anyone. She's got a new life now, in New York City, and things seem to be going well. With only a very bare-bones English vocabulary, she charms her way into employment, and then into a plush life as mistress to both a handsome star of Jewish theatre and his father. But when a voice from the past gives her a bit of heart-wrenching news, she knows her journey has only just begun.
But of course, Away is not the sort of book you read to find out what happens next. For the reader, as for Lillian, it's all in the journey. Bloom finds the magic and the heartbreak (and, often, the humor) in every situation, and Lillian's hope and despair bleed into us. Away feels somewhere between a novel and a sequence of linked short stories, but she uses her skills to flesh out whole lifetimes in brief, brilliant, flash-forwards. No one Lillian Leyb touches remains unaffected.