From Publishers Weekly
Life is no party for Lillian Leyb, the 22-year-old Jewish immigrant protagonist of Bloom's outstanding fifth novel: her husband and parents were killed in a Russian pogrom, and the same violent episode separated her from her three-year-old daughter, Sophie. Arriving in New York in 1924, Lillian dreams of Sophie, and after five weeks in America, barely speaking English, she outmaneuvers a line of applicants for a seamstress job at the Goldfadn Yiddish Theatre, where she becomes the mistress of both handsome lead actor Meyer Burstein and his very connected father, Reuben. Her only friend in New York, tailor/actor/playwright Yaakov Shimmelman, gives her a thesaurus and coaches her on American culture. In a last, loving, gesture, Yaakov secures Lillian passage out of New York to begin her quest to find Sophie. The journey—through Chicago by train, into Seattle's African-American underworld and across the Alaskan wilderness—elevates Bloom's novel from familiar immigrant chronicle to 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. (Aug.)
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Inspired by the legend of Lillian Alling, a Russian immigrant who decided to walk home to Siberia in the 1920s, Amy Bloom has taken the few details known to history and fleshed them out into a brilliant, enthralling novel. Critics universally lauded Bloom's lovely prose, wit, incisive characterizations, and keen grasp of the complexities of the human heart. Her careful balance of tragedy and humor, and irony and compassion, sidesteps sentimentality, and the novel retains a Dickensian flair without ever becoming maudlin. (Only USA Today
faulted its epic-like narrative.) Critics also praised Bloom's narrative trick of revealing her characters' futures as they leave the plot. Hailed as a "literary triumph" by the New York Times
, "it is also a classic page-turner, one that delivers a relentlessly good read."
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