Elsey Come Home

“Probing questions about how to balance motherhood, a career, marriage, and a drinking problem resonate throughout Conley’s excellent novel. Conley hits the mark on a story line that feels both high-stakes and fine-tuned. It’s the raw description of Elsey’s inner dialogue that elevates the novel, making for an honest and astute depiction of the human psyche."

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Southern Living Magazine’s Best New Books Coming Out Winter 2019: “The titular character in Susan Conley’s moving new novel Elsey Come Home is a painter, mother, and wife who much embark on a journey through addiction toward recover and healing in order to find her way back home.”

Elsey Come Home is a portrait of contemporary womanhood. Elsey, the main character, has known success as an acclaimed painter, and she moves through the world with a certain level of confidence, but by the time we meet her she’s struggling, and her life is unraveling, and she’s trying to hide it. It’s one of the great unspoken secrets of motherhood, especially in America: how to have children and hold on to some semblance of your former ambitious, creative self. But this identity conflict is what’s most often not talked about, and it becomes Elsey’s secret, personal struggle. She goes to the Chinese mountains for a yoga retreat with a handful of local Chinese and foreigners, and in the novel she writes an honest account of her time in the mountains and what it’s like to be an outsider looking in at China and to sometimes not being a good enough mother. Then she meets a disarmingly forthright acclaimed Chinese painter named Mei Feng, and Mei unknowingly shows Elsey a way back to her art and to her former self.

Early Reviews for Elsey Come Home

"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

“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 Pre-Pub Pick for January

“The story of an ex-pat in Beijing striving to balance parenthood, marriage, and artistry explored through the lens of womanhood. 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 2018 Holiday Books 

“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

“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 Everybody’s Fool

“Elsey’s voice is a triumph. It sings. The writing is exquisite and tells the story of someone who has lost herself to the point that the pain in her life threatens to divide her from the people she loves most. There is so much is at stake here, and even the small moments resonate. I loved, loved this novel.”

— Lily King, author of Euphoria

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

“Elsey Come Home is a delicious read, vivid and delicately wrought, and so very prescient with regard to the mother-child bond that it’s almost eerie. I kept finding myself thinking,how did she know? and how did she find the words? An engrossing, moving meditation on family, loss, creativity, secrets, culture, and the bonds that hold our lives together against the odds.”

— Carolina De Robertis, author of The Gods of Tango

“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… This is 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