Lillian Leyb—the protagonist of the story, a Russian immigrant.
Reuben Burstein—the father of Meyer and owner of the theater.
Meyer Burstein—son of Reuben, good-looking actor and later Lillian’s lover.
Esther Burstein—Reuben’s wife.
Yaakov Shimmelman—a tailor and friend of Reuben’s.
Frieda—Lillian’s cousin, with whom she lives in New York City.
Judith—young woman with whom Lillian shares a room at Frieda’s place.
Mariam—Lillian’s cousin in Russia.
Raisele Perlmutter—Lillian’s cousin who comes to New York and tells Lillian her daughter is alive.
Mr. and Mrs. Pinsky—Russian couple who took Lillian’s daughter to Siberia.
Dan O’Brien—helps to arrange the first leg of Lillian’s trip to Seattle.
Red McGann—helps to arrange second leg of Lillian’s trip to Seattle.
Clothilde Browne—prostitute “Gumdrop” in Seattle who helps Lillian.
Snooky Salt—Gumdrop’s pimp.
Arthur Gilpin—constable in Alaska who puts Lillian in the women’s detention hall to keep her from walking farther north in the winter.
Lorena Gilpin—Arthur Gilpin’s new (second) wife.
Fat Patty—tattoo artist and prisoner at detention hall.
Mrs. Mortimer—matron at the detention hall.
Chinky Chang—Chinese girl who befriends Lillian at the detention hall.
Cleveland Seward Munson—Chinky’s boyfriend, later her husband.
John Bishop—man Lillian falls in love with in Alaska.
Lillian, the protagonist of Amy Bloom’s novel Away, is a tough-minded young woman who is caught up in some very harsh, and sometimes threatening, circumstances. She has continual nightmares about her past, especially the murders of her parents and her husband as well as the disappearance of her daughter, Sophie. But she moves on, as she moves on under all her challenges. Never does she become dragged into depression.
She does what she has to do, regardless of how others might judge her. She pushes to the front of the employment line when she seeks one of the few jobs available. She recognizes her ability to attract men and uses her skills to find a comfortable home. When she thinks she is sacrificing herself to become one man’s mistress, she finds she must satisfy the needs of two men, which she manages with finesse. Although Lillian imagines that people sometimes stare at her, the author does not condemn her for the ways she manipulates her situation to her advantage. Lillian is a woman with few defenses available. She has little or no money, hardly any clothes, and no protective family except for a distant cousin she does not know and who could not care less as to what Lillian does or how she does it. So when the Bursteins, father and son, become attracted to her, she recognizes their needs and does her best to fulfill them. They comfort her with a roof over her head and some food. She comforts them in bed, but she is not portrayed as a prostitute. Both men are gentle, maybe even in love with her. There is something about Lillian that makes the male characters in this story fall helplessly for her. Part of this is due to her innocence. She has so much to learn, and the men are more than willing to teach her. Lillian also appeals to them because she is wide open. There is nothing that she hides from them. They see her vulnerability but they also respect her strength. Lillian’s strength is not based on her physicality but rather on her determination.
This determination is no better presented than when she must hike through the cold whiteness of Alaska’s wilderness. She may have been raised in the bitter temperatures of Russia, but there she had a village and a family around...
(The entire section contains 983 words.)
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