This book feels unique – in spare language and short chapters, Elsey struggles to balance intense feelings of motherhood with her career as an artist and obligations to her marriage while living as an ex-pat in China. She put me in her head as she fights addiction, craves a sense of belonging, and deals with unresolved grief honestly and painfully. Powerful!
— Kathy W.
NAMED A POPSUGAR BOOK OF THE YEAR
When Elsey's husband, Lukas, hands her a brochure for a weeklong mountain retreat, she knows he is really giving her an ultimatum: Go, or we’re done. Once a successful painter, Elsey set down roots in China after falling in love with Lukas. Now, with two young daughters and unable to find a balance between her identities as artist, mother, and wife, Elsey fills her days worrying, drinking, and descending into boredom and unhappiness. So she agrees to go. There, she meets a group of men and women who will forever alter the way she understands herself, and help her to finally embark on a journey to address her own pain and find her way back to her marriage.
Written in a voice at once wry, sensual, blunt, and hypnotic, Elsey Come Home is a modern odyssey and a quietly dynamic portrait of contemporary womanhood.
About the Author
SUSAN CONLEY is the author of the novel Paris Was the Place and The Foremost Good Fortune, a book that won the Maine Literary Award for memoir. Born and raised in Maine, her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares. She has been awarded fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Maine Arts Commission, and the Massachusetts Arts Council. She spent three years in Beijing with her husband and two sons before moving back to Portland, Maine, where she currently lives. She teaches in the Stonecoast Writing Program at the University of Southern Maine.
“[An] intricate, delicate-as-rice-paper novel.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A necessary look at the identity crisis women can face when the world forces them into boxes.” —Marie Claire
“Elsey’s voice is a triumph. It sings. The writing is exquisite. . . . There is so much at stake here, and even the small moments resonate. I loved, loved this novel.” —Lily King, author of Euphoria “I loved Elsey Come Home. The exotic setting, the characters Elsey meets along the way—her husband, her little girls, her dilemma. And the writing, spare and lovely. What more can I say—perfect.” —Judy Blume, author of In the Unlikely Event
“Sometimes the structure of a novel so suits its content, so fully allows characters to inhabit the page, that it’s hard to imagine any other arrangement. So it is with Susan Conley’s twisty, absorbing new novel, with its brief urgent chapters that read like dispatches from near and far. . . . Readers may come away from this book marveling at the small miracle they’ve just witnessed. . . . Elsey is that rare creation that evokes real life, defies predictability and disarms us at every turn. Conley has taken a jittery pile of loose ends and made a thing of beauty.” —Portland Press Herald
“A beautiful, ethereal piece of writing. . . . Packed with emotional resonance and deftly-turned phrases.” —The Maine Edge
“Even within a few paragraphs of this exploration of motherhood and individuality, Elsey’s voice and emotional turbulence leap off the page.” —The Huffington Post
“Beautifully written. . . . A thought-provoking novel.” —Washington Times “Conley’s prose exudes purpose and rhythm, an unusually lovely combination, creating a rich mood and atmosphere that will have you craving a trip to China.” —Fodor’s
“Elsey Come Home is a smart, wry, and immersive coming-of-middle-age story of growth and womanhood.” —Hello Giggles
“[A] well-paced, quietly moving novel. . . . [Elsey’s] thoughtful, vulnerable, honest articulation of her pain--told from a distant future vantage point--is what truly drives her story toward resolution.” —Shelf Awareness “Probing questions about how to balance motherhood, a career, marriage, and a drinking problem resonate throughout Conley’s excellent novel . . . [Elsey Come Home is] an honest and astute depiction of the human psyche.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Conley's novel illustrates the power of storytelling as a process for healing. What entices and endures here is the voice: dreamy, meditative, hypnotic, and very real.” —Kirkus Reviews “Moving.” —Southern Living
“An intimate declaration of independence. . . . Readers will be hard-pressed not to finish the slender volume in one sitting.” —HeraldMailMedia
“A quiet, contemplative portrait of a woman searching for herself.” —Book Page
“Author of the memoir The Foremost Good Fortune, an O, the Oprah Magazine ‘Top Ten’ pick, and the debut novel Paris Was the Place, a People Magazine Top Pick, Conley returns with a new novel carrying the poignancy and fraught scrape of relationships that characterized them both.” —Library Journal
“What a quirky little gem of a book Susan Conley has written. I’m still trying to figure out how she created a character so seemingly lost to herself without losing me in the process. There’s genuine alchemy here.” —Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls
“Elsey Come Home is a triumph, a book of powerful women and even more powerful tradition. Contemporary China comes vividly to life alongside American friendships, family, and fortune good and bad—love and illness, pleasure and addiction, connection and misunderstanding, brittle trips back home. I love Susan Conley’s sentences — spare but lyrical, hard-edged but melodic, not a word extra, a story so big no Talking Circle could ever contain it.” —Bill Roorbach, author of The Girl of the Lake
“Elsey Come Home is a thing of wonder and beauty, a novel about faraway places, both internal and external. I read this in one thirsty gulp, and through its window was shown certain truths about the joy, pain, and intricacy of marriage, and of being. Susan Conley is a magical writer; this book is her magic.” —Mike Paterniti, author of The Telling Room “I love Elsey—her vulnerability, and self-awareness, and her love for her daughters, which permeates the novel. This book is lush with colors, smells, and sounds, and has a compulsive, deeply gratifying shape. We’re allowed to witness Elsey in all her glory, even when she’s unable to see herself clearly.” —Lewis Robinson, author of Water Dogs
“Susan Conley’s voice is so intimate and filled with such exquisite detail it was as if a friend was whispering Elsey Come Home in my ear. While Elsey is a character hemmed in by her own flaws and misgivings, her author is the opposite, showering us with emotional nuance and gorgeous writing that make this novel a showcase of modern domesticity with all its unpredictable complexities and triumphs. Anyone who has ever felt separate and finally comes together will find himself or herself in Elsey Come Home.” —Betsy Carter, author of We Were Strangers Once