cover image Landslide


Susan Conley. Knopf, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-65713-2

In Conley’s immersive latest (after Elsey Comes Home), a self-aware mother whose fisherman husband is laid up in a Nova Scotia hospital struggles to keep it together while looking after her two teenage sons. The Archers were experiencing money problems even before an engine explosion on Kit’s boat left him with a broken leg and internal bleeding. Kit’s recuperation proceeds slowly, while Jill, a documentary filmmaker, feels increasingly unequal to the challenges of parenting their boys—or as she calls them, “the wolves”—in the family’s home on a small island in Maine. Jill’s anxiety grows when 17-year-old Charlie says he wants to move in with his girlfriend’s family and 16-year-old Sam posts photos of himself smoking pot on Instagram. Meanwhile, Jill suspects Kit of having an affair with a female shipmate. Charlie and Sam tell Jill to “chill,” but chilling proves impossible when Sam, who has been talking about running away, disappears after being suspended from school. Jill’s film in progress about Maine’s declining fishing industry adds to her doubts about the future. While the ending feels a bit too tidy, Conley is at her best capturing Maine’s coastal terrain as well as Jill’s emotional turmoil. Through her disarmingly authentic family portrait, Conley speaks volumes about changing ways of life. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, the Gernert Company (Feb.)