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Review of Landslide by Susan Conley

Conley's book explores a mother's emotional struggle to care for her wild teenage sons and to cope in the wake of her husband's serious accident, all on a tiny island in Maine.

Susan Conley's novel Landslide offers a portrait of a family in a remote fishing village in Maine after an accident throws father Kit out of work.

Mother Jill is left to take care of her teen sons--they're so wild she thinks of them as "the wolves"--on their tiny island as Kit recovers far away in Nova Scotia.

Jill feels utterly alone as she struggles to understand teenaged dramas, to manage brotherly conflict, to attempt to impart life lessons, to impart values related to drugs and sex, and to cope with the boys' dangerous tests of luck and fate. She does all of this in the frequently unforgiving Maine climate on the isolating island where the family has made their home.

While facing what feels like disaster after disaster, Jill struggles to give her boys what they need--while navigating complicated emotions, fears about the state of her marriage, and her own persistent, often unmet need to forge an identity separate from that of wife and mother.

Much of Landslide consists of Jill trying to keep herself together emotionally while feeling powerless and, often, without a plan. She feels she should make sure her boys and husband feel seen and known, but she's deeply wishing to feel seen and known herself. The atmosphere is sometimes frenetic and frequently claustrophobic, and characters' ineffectual conversations often hit dead ends before they even begin. Characters rely on misdirection and avoidance and offer few straightforward answers, and the resulting frustration and panic made me feel immersed in Jill's unpleasant swirl of doubts, worries, fears, and desperation.

Underlying all of the family's stresses is the grim, haunting specter of the imploding fishing business and bleak conditions. These not only complicate Jill and Kit's finances, but threaten Kit's identity and shake the family's sense of personal history and the legacy that's been held by generations.

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Conley is also the author of the novels Kelsey Come Home and Paris Was the Place, as well as the memoir The Foremost Good Fortune.