Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blown 'Away'

I have just finished Amy Bloom's Away. I feverishly licked my way through the 240 pages burning to get to the next adventure. This is the book. Complete. Amy Bloom can turn a trenchant phrase " Her blisters weep pink, red and yellow (italics mine) but its the quickening pulse of the book that thrills me.
Ms Bloom is not a stickler for what they call historical accuracy - a phrase that titters my overly analytical mind. How can accurate be applied to history. All history is just a just story, at best we can throw it "account". A story that stands as truth because the dissenters are busy scractching out a paltry living with their bare fingers, or too scared or shy or... In any event, the genius of the book lies in it's bold storytelling.

Bloom gave a twist to nearly all the cliches she had to use--after all this is a book about a poor Eastern European Jew who drops off at Ellis Island searching for that elusive American Dream until the thing that propelled her out of Turov pulls her back.

When our heroine passes through Chicago on her way to the Yukon Territory where she plans to travel by boat and on foot until she crosses the Bering Strait into Siberia, there are black pimps and hos. Of course, they are cousins. But who should guess that the ho in question, Gumdrop, nee Clothilde, has a deliciously indecent speciality. Oh, the Oriental submissiveness won't do. Why, a grown woman of diminutive stature and child-like proportions who dressses in neat frocks, socks with lace trimmings and little Mary Jane heels.
Unusual characters abound in this 1920s world but they are not flappers and swingers. A pimp who is so fiercely into Moroccan decor that he imports his items. Poor Jewish immigrants living in tenements in New York. A gay Jewish theatre star who takes a lover in Central Park by night and a fiancee by day to please his mother. All the characters are hungry. Hungry to exercize power, hungry to gain power, or just plain belly-grumbling hungry.
The pith of the book is Lillian's quest to travel from New York to Siberia on foot begging, working, or conceeding any ---and any means any at all --favors that might help her get there. Her daughter, lost during a Jew-hunt in Turov, during a nightmarish night when her entire family was slaughtered, may or may not be there.
Maybe can feed a lot of dreams or deliriums.
Totally worth a read or even two. Enjoy!

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