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Elsey Come Home

10 Newly-Released Books That Will Give You an Excuse to Stay Indoors This Winter: “In this intricate, delicate-as-rice-paper novel, an American painter living in Beijing and trying to clean up her act at a yoga retreat makes gains in fits and starts, 'a butterfly, flitting from leaf to leaf.’”

— O. Oprah Magazine

“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

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.

Reviews for Elsey Come Home

“Best Books of the Month: Literature and Fiction”

"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 ˆ 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

“Described as ‘perfect’ by Judy Blume herself, Susan Conley's new novel follows Elsey, a woman living in Beijing struggling to reconcile her identities as painter, mother, expat, individual, and wife. It's a necessary look at the identity crisis women can face when the world forces them into boxes.”

“Even within a few paragraphs of this exploration of motherhood and individuality, Elsey’s voice and emotional turbulence leap off the page.”

“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

“Sixteen Fiction Releases to Watch For: In Elsey Come Home a former successful painter is forced to take a hard look at her life when her husband hands her — along with a silent ultimatum — a brochure for a weeklong mountain retreat.”

“Susan Conley’s Elsey Come Home is a quiet, contemplative portrait of a woman searching for herself…Elsey reflects on her sense of self and the people around her. They become touchstones of sorts, pointing Elsey back to herself.”

 — Book Page

“Indeed, the intriguing descriptions of life in China are a reminder that Americans, like people of other nations, sometimes emigrate and make their home elsewhere. In the end then, this is a thought-provoking novel, often beautifully written.”

— Washington Times 

“A gem of a book! I’m going to recommend it to everybody!”

Best New Books To Read This Week: “Elsey Come Home is a smart, wry, and immersive coming-of-middle-age story of growth and womanhood.”

— Hello Giggles

“Books We’re Looking Forward to in the First Half of 2019: “When Elsey’s husband, Lukas, hands her a brochure for a mountain retreat, she knows he is really giving her an ultimatum: Go, or we’re done. But once at the retreat, she encounters a group of men and women who will forever alter the way she understands herself.”

Read It Forward

“This is a story about choices we make, addictions we carry and how we can forgive ourselves our past and try to move on. This book is the inside and the outside look of Elsey's life and the impact her actions have on her and her own family. It was beautifully written and I really recommend it.”

— That’s What She Read

“An American painter in Beijing struggles to resolve questions of identity, motherhood and addiction in this well-paced, quietly moving novel. The central tension of Elsey's life is the impossible choice between being an artist and being a mother. Her thoughtful, vulnerable, honest articulation of her pain--told from a distant future vantage point--is what truly drives her story toward resolution.”

— Shelf Awareness

“A beautiful, ethereal piece of writing – a look at the power of family, the nature of creativity and the dynamics of addiction. It’s an exploration of one woman’s psyche, a look both deep and broad into what makes a person tick, packed with emotional resonance and deftly-turned phrases.”

— The Maine Edge

“Beautifully written. . . . The intriguing descriptions of life in China are a reminder that Americans, like people of other nations, sometimes emigrate and make their home elsewhere. In the end then, this is a thought-provoking novel.”

— Washington Times

“In Elsey Come Home, Portland author Susan Conley (Paris was the Place) gives a startlingly honest voice to working mothers. Her mesmerizing sincerity rings a common bell.

“The novel is an intimate declaration of independence. It’s a story told many times over, true, but Conley tells it with such understanding and compassion that readers will be hard-pressed not to finish the slender volume in one sitting.”

— HeraldMailMedia

“At once urgent and contemplative, this new work focuses on Elsey, a painter and married mother living in China who has taken to drinking instead of creating art. Urged by her husband to find help, she attends a yoga retreat and discovers many truths, not the least of which about herself in this timely and timeless story.”

— Audiofile Magazine’s Winner of The Earphones Award for Excellence

“Readers may come away from this book marveling at the small miracle they’ve just witnessed – this feisty blur of a woman, caught in the grip of her many demons, hellbent on pushing everyone, and everything, away. 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.”

— The Portland Press Herald

Elsey Come Home evokes the mystifying elements of culture shock that one must experience when traveling or living in a foreign country, but might not really understand. Conley shows the numerous stages of illness… Are you going to drink your way out of terror, or breathe into it in a yoga class? Can you ever be the same person after pieces of you are removed?”

— Santa Fe New Mexican

“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.”