When I opened the book to read, I discovered that I had already read it but did not remember it any cohesive way. To me, since it didn't leave much of a lasting impression, it would mean it was good but not wonderful. Only the most extreme events of the novel stayed in my mind, but even then, it was only in the barest outline form, so I had to skim the entire book in order to have it come together again in my memory.
I will say that it was an interesting book with many interrelated themes of survival and love running through it, spanning several decades and taking place in several countries and locales. The book moves seamlessly between events and holds the readers interest at all times but the circumstances surrounding many of the most important moments in the book are not always believable.
Many of the characters, who were well developed, seemed to have major flaws in their own "character", always doing what was expedient to accomplish their ends regardless of morality or ethics. Often, I stopped to ask myself, did the end justify the means? I am always amazed by the way characters use each other and abuse each other, in the books I read, and am sometimes disheartened when I realize that many of the incidents are based on a reality that may have actually existed in another form in one or another moment in time; fortunately this disappointed feeling often collides with a feeling of unexpected pleasure when I read of acts of inexplicable, unbelievable courage and kindness, which occur for no apparent reason. This book did not disappoint me in that way.
The main character is on a quest to find her daughter who was “lost” during a savage and barbaric Russian pogrom. The roads and paths that lead to that goal are varied and wide, filled with suffering and high and low moments, often unrealistic in content and scope.
She and many of the novel's characters seem to have exceptional lives with unusual problems and pasts. Nothing ordinary occurs. Life for the immigrants and citizens of the various countries we are exposed to in the book, in the early part of the 20th century, was hard and survival was almost accidental in certain circumstances. Events seemed to bump against each other randomly, at times, however, they blended well, in the end.
Each character is looking for something and each finds an avenue to get there which does not always lead them back to the beginning of their quest but often takes them off course making them, surprisingly, still happier with their unexpected results. Perhaps they find that what they think they are seeking is really not worth it or is really not attainable and what they have found instead, is more than than enough. Whatever the result, it is a circuitous, but exciting, route to the conclusion.