Cover Image: Landslide

Landslide

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Member Reviews

A beautiful work of literary fiction that explores several complex topics (i.e. marriage, motherhood, how we adapt to different stages of life, etc.) It was a very "quiet" novel, but entirely moving and captivating.
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Such a beautifully-written, heartbreaking book. I've recommended it to several others, and look forward to including it in an upcoming round-up of my favorite books of the year.
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Ooh this was so good! My wife read it first and then pushed it into my hands, telling me I had to had to had to read it next. And I was so glad she did. It's fast and wiry, like young boys; it's sad and smart and funny at times just like adulthood. Solid stuff.
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[4.25 stars]

Landslide is the kind of novel that's an absolute gem, but that I fear won't get the attention it deserves because it isn't flashy or trendy. It's quiet and character-driven and gets to the heart of the age-old topics of motherhood (particularly to teenage boys, which she calls the "wolves") and marriage (particularly when it's tested). I loved the background of the Maine fishing industry, which is dying amid government intervention. It has a bit of an internal monologue feel and, despite its quietness, it has short chapters and reads quickly.
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I highly recommend this book. Different than what I normally read and completely unputdownable. 
Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me the thrill of reading early.
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This was excellent. Recommended it to all the mothers of teenage wolves (aka boys) that I know. For fans of Chemistry and Sea Wife.
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As a mom of 2 boys I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I found the New England setting very realistic as well as the life of a fishing family. I had no idea the fishing industry was in such trouble and those details along with really good writing kept me invested. I could relate to so much of Jill's motherhood journey, teenage boys are so hard to parent and she explored  the intimate emotions of raising them so well. This story was a thoughtful, well written debut
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Thank you, NetGalley, for access to Landslide. Susan Conley is a terrific writer of dialogue, and I would be open to reading more by her. And I say this often on Goodreads, but there is something to be said for writing a literary novel in fewer than 300 pages. Landslide would make a great stage play. I miss live theater!
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Book review: 'Landslide' is a redemptive story about hope and healing
By ASHLEY RIGGLESON FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR Mar 6, 2021  

To be honest, it was mostly the setting—coastal Maine—that drew me to Susan Conley’s new novel, “Landslide.” I love novels set in New England, and this one did not disappoint.

Seemingly inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song of the same title, “Landslide” tells the story of a family in crisis. Soon after the novel opens, we learn that the father, Kit, a commercial fisherman, has just been in a debilitating accident, leaving Jill, the mother who tells this story, to raise two teenaged sons alone. To further complicate matters, the youngest son, Sam, is still reeling from the trauma of losing his best friend two years earlier.

“Landslide” is, above all, a story about family dynamics. Readers can trace the deterioration of Sam’s mental health as time without his father lengthens. We can also map the strain the accident has put on Jill and Kit’s marriage.

Conley ultimately relies on the strength of her characters to carry this redemptive story forward. Though there is not a lot of action here, Conley still manages to write a well-paced story that pulls readers along like an ocean current. I found that I wanted to keep reading, even though, for most of the book, I did not find the characters to be particularly likeable. This makes the redemption at the end all the sweeter.

Though there is plenty to like about this story, some readers may find, as I did, that the character development here is somewhat lacking. It seemed that the characters remained stagnated for most of the book, only to have a lot of development in the last few pages. That said, the trajectory Conley sets up for this family is quite a beautiful one. At the end of the novel, the love this family has for one another is plainly evident.

Despite the messiness, Conley wraps up the novel beautifully. “Landslide” turned out to be the story of hope and healing I needed right now. Conley showed me that, even when it seems that we are at the brink and all is lost, it is possible to come back again, and for that I am sure “Landslide” will linger in my memory for a long time to come.

Ashley Riggleson is a freelance writer from Rappahannock County.
More Information
LANDSLIDE

By Susan Conley

(Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95, 288 pages)

Published: Feb. 2, 2021

This review was originally printed in the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va
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Reading Landslide by Susan Conley is like walking into someone else’s very stressful life, which you may or may not want to experience. Jill is a middle-aged woman living with her husband Kit and two teenage sons in Maine, where Kit is a commercial fisherman and Jill makes documentary films. When the book opens, Kit has been seriously injured in an accident on his boat, and he is in a Nova Scotia hospital several hours away. Jill is trying to hold down the fort at home while Kit recuperates, which means providing support for Kit while managing her teenagers, who are dealing with typical teenager stuff: girlfriends, school, sex, smoking pot, and generally pushing away their mother and wanting to be independent. The family is on the verge of several crises at once, and Jill is left trying to hold it all together.

There is a lot to like about Landslide. Conley does a great job describing the dance of parenting teenagers: the push and pull, the rotation between being a friend and then a parent and then a disciplinarian and then a friend again, and the need to hide the pain and anger and hurt when your child pushes you away or disappoints you or lies to you. It’s a quiet, emotional read that really plunges you deeply into Jill’s world. I felt a tremendous amount of empathy for her as it felt that no one was on her side, even her best friend who kept trying to talk her out of her feelings.

My only complaint is that Landslide was basically… joyless. It was poignant and beautifully written, but kind of an emotional slog. I wanted more of a payoff at the end after all that stress! Parenting and marriage can be really challenging, but… eesh. Tough stuff.
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I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. For me, the setting was a new cultural experience. I had never thought about the lives of fisherman and their families and what kind of stamina and endurance is needed to make a living as a fisherman. That living is dependent on climate and fisherman have to go further out, find different spots and be gone for weeks at a time if the fish leave the area. When fishing is a generational thing, you may not have the choice or ability to leave this very hard life. The book follows Jillian, her husband, Kit and their two teenage sons after Kit is injured in a boat explosion. This book seems honest in its accounting of a mother who struggles to take care of her sons while problems with her marriage and worries about the future intrude.
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What a fantastic story!  I started reading and didn't stop until the end. It's a quite story about familial complexities that is suspenseful, provocative, and thought provoking.
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Conley writes about family dynamics with subtle elegance and prodding insight. Like her previous novel, "Elsey Come Home," there's much authenticity here, richly drawn characters and a solid ear for dialogue.
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We’ve all heard the old saw “Write what you know.” However, we don’t all agree on what that actually means.

For a writer like Susan Conley, it means carrying a deep, fundamental understanding of the sorts of people and places that you’re going to bring to life. That understanding – that knowledge – is what makes her work so engrossing and compelling.

Conley’s newest book is “Landslide,” a thoughtful exploration of the demographic and economic shifts that have been taking place in towns up and down the Maine coast in recent years. It’s a story of struggles – the struggle to make ends meet, the struggle to find fulfillment, the struggle of married life and motherhood – marked by occasional small moments of personal victory. All of it refracted through the prism of one woman’s perspective.

Grasping the importance of connection is a hallmark of Conley’s work – see 2019’s excellent “Elsey Comes Home” for a prime example – and she continues along that path with this one. She sets up shop in her protagonist’s head, giving the reader a first-hand look at the inner strife that comes with experiencing changes that are largely unwelcome and more than a little frightening.

Jill lives in the small Maine fishing town of Sewall with her family. She’s a documentary filmmaker, devoted to telling the stories of towns like her current one and the mill town she grew up in, towns being left behind by the changing times. Her husband Kit is a generational fisherman, a man whose life has been lived on the water. It’s a job to which he remains devoted, even as economic and legislative realities close in.

But when an accident on the water leaves Kit hospitalized far from home, it’s just Jill and her two teenaged sons – she calls them “wolves,” an apt representation of her affectionate wariness of them – living in their tiny island cabin and trying to stay hopeful while Kit recovers. It’s not easy; while 17-year-old Charlie is largely distracted, thanks to the presence of a new girlfriend in his life, 16-year-old Sam is proving to be quite a handful. Both boys are struggling to deal with the absence of their dad and their fears with regard to his well-being, but try as she might, Jill can’t seem to find the right way to alleviate those concerns.

As time passes, tensions mount. Jill isn’t at all sure how to deal with the boys. Should she be more lenient with Charlie’s desire to spend more time with his girlfriend? Or should she set more specific boundaries? And what’s the right way to deal with the constant acting out and poor decisions made by Sam? What can she do to make him take responsibility for himself while also providing him the support that he needs during these difficulties that have roots in both the present and the past? Oh, and she’s ALSO dealing with Kit’s family, longtime residents of Sewall who all have strong opinions of their own about, well … all of it. All this, plus the family’s slowly sinking financial situation, takes its toll.

And it doesn’t get better when Jill starts to suspect that there are other issues with her family, things squirming just far enough beneath the surface as to be difficult to see clearly. Difficult to see … and difficult to catch, even for a family built around fishing.

“Landslide” is a thoughtful and unflinching deconstruction of the relatively small world in which one woman lives, digging into what it means to love and to be loved. In this book, love is rewarding, yes, but it is also hard, with the ties that bind us constantly evolving due to circumstances both internal and external. Sometimes, we are hurt by the ones we love and are left to reckon with that hurt as best we can. And yet we love them still.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what Conley has done here is subvert that notion. Yes, a void is left when a member of a family is absent. And yes, that person is missed. But the messy reality is that it is more complicated than that. Our hearts grow fonder, yes, but they can also grow sad or detached or resentful. That messiness, that refusal to romanticize – that is what makes “Landslide” resonate so deeply.

It is all brought to the fore by Conley’s lean, deft prose. I hesitate to use the term “readability” here – part of me worries that it’s damning with faint praise – but it’s tough to deny just how easy this book is to consume. Conley’s economical storytelling, her ear for dialogue, her vivid sense of place, her compelling characters and connections … it all contributes to a book that practically begs to be read quickly.

With “Landslide,” Susan Coley once more shows her innate understanding of the impact our connections have on us, for good and ill alike. This story of stormy familial waters rings true, casting a wide net as it evokes both the in-the-moment outsized nature of small conflicts and the compartmentalized distancing of large ones. All in all, a fine haul.
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Set in a small fishing town in coastal Maine, author Susan Conley shares the story of Jillian Archer, her marriage to Kit, and her relationships with her two teenage sons Charlie and Sam.

After her husband Kit is seriously injured in a fishing accident, Jillian is holed up at home with her two sons, during the barrenness and isolation of a New England winter. She feels torn between being by her husband's side during his recovery in Canada, and being with her sons, whom she affectionately refers to as "the wolves". 

She so vividly portrays the "dance" that a mother's journey through parenting in the teen years must be (I am still a few years away from living this myself...) The bleak setting of a harsh winter in Maine, combined with the complexities and layers of family dynamics, paired so perfectly. 

Conley's writing, while told through sparse prose, is masterfully compelling and includes a multitude of contemporary themes, perfect for a book club discussion. This is the perfect book to get lost in, and I already know it is one that I won't soon forget. 

 Thank you to Knopf for my gifted galley. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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I can already tell you that 𝐋𝐀𝐍𝐃𝐒𝐋𝐈𝐃𝐄 by Susan Conley will end up on my Best Books of 2021 list. Everything about her latest story resonated with me. I know nothing about living on an island, or what it’s like to be married to a fisherman in a small Maine village, but all that was window dressing on what it’s like to be the mother of teenage boys in a marriage facing strains. These things I know.⁣
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Jill’s husband had been hurt in a fishing accident far from home, and was recuperating in a Canadian hospital. The strains of being married to a man frequently absent were compounded by his accident, which opened Jill’s eyes to more than she wanted to see. This I know. ⁣
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Jill affectionately thought of her sons as the “wolves,” a perfect metaphor for teenage boys. This I know. The relationship between Jill and her sons was where 𝘓𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘴𝘭𝘪𝘥𝘦 shone the brightest. It reminded me so much of my own mother-son relationships. Almost always one child seems more vulnerable or needs more from you than the other. For Jill it was her younger son. This I know. The constant worry, the guilt she felt, the sacrifices she made, the quandary that is teenage sons, this I know. Conley got it ALL exactly right.⁣
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“𝘐’𝘮 𝘴𝘰 𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘵 𝘚𝘢𝘮. 𝘚𝘰 𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘺. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺. 𝘐𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘤𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘭𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴. 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳. 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦. 𝘞𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺.” This, too, I know.
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I feel like I missed something in this book, need to gather my thoughts and reread portions before I post my review.
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A very sparse novel about a woman who is left to care for her two sons, while her husband is recovering from severe injuries in Canada.

Told in very small vignettes that span from the days Jill meets her husband until post-accident. Her sons are struggling with the aftermath and so is Jill, as she deals with issues her husband would normally help her with.

Susan Conley paints a very realistic picture of this woman trying to do what is right for her family. She is dealt some tough blows from her husband and kids, and she has to make decisions of what is right for her.

This is lovely writing, and pact full of details in this very short book. You might want to read this in small bits, and the author makes this very accessible for that.

Thank you NetGalley and Knopf for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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What a remarkable story! Written in very spare prose, Landslide tells the story of Jillian Archer, her marriage to Kit, and her relationship with her two teenage sons, Charlie and Sam. Raising teenagers is treacherous enough but Jill has the added pressure of Kit's recent serious accident. He is a commercial fisherman and has been hospitalized in Canada, hours away from the family's home in Maine.

Jill refers to her sons as "the wolves" and she is torn between being at her husband's bedside and staying home with her son, who are both challenging her in different ways. I was immediately drawn into this family's story and loved the setting of a tiny Maine fishing village. The author does a wonderful job of exploring how the commercial fishing industry has suffered and the toll it takes on the fisherman and their families. But fishing is in Kit's blood and is the only thing he has ever known.

If you like books that explore marriage and long-term relationships, you will love this book. Jill begins to think her husband is not the man she thought she married and begins to question whether this life is for her. Her marriage and her relationship with her sons all seem to be unraveling at once. I loved the conclusion of this book and the way the author reveals that everything is not always black and white. Parenting and marriage and tough and happy endings are not always guaranteed.

I felt Jill's interactions with her sons were all incredibly realistic, as painful and funny as they are in real life. I couldn't wait to see what they would do next! The title of the book is very fitting as it parallels the Stevie Nicks song, and what happens when your life comes crashing down around you. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading more of Susan Conley's books.

(Thank you to the publisher for an advanced reading copy, provided in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.)
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My babies are still small, and this novel made me equal parts excited for them to be teenagers and so petrified. I loved reading about this family (even in their state of crisis) that feels not too far off from where my family will be. Easily comparable to J Courtney Sullivan or some of Maggie O’Farrell’s contemporary novels. Good character driven fiction.
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