I’ve never met Maine-based novelist Susan Conley, but I feel like I know Jill Archer, the protagonist of Conley’s Landslide.
If you came across a character like Jill in one of those beachy reads that summer visitors inhale while ensconced on cozy B&B porches overlooking Penobscot Bay, chances are the reading would not rate up there with your favorite serious books of fiction. You might want to put Landslide in that category—and it’s an entertaining page-turner.
Here’s my Goodreads review of the novel.
— Susan Conley’s Landslide achieves the kind of palpable and inviting setting, authenticity of character, and thriller-like urgency of story that make this novel a quick and rewarding read. Set on the Maine coast, the sharply-focused first-person, present tense narrative immerses readers in the consciousness of Jill Archer, without shortchanging the other key characters. In fact, because of the main character’s effectively rendered interior and the novel’s pitch-perfect dialogue and tight scene construction, we end up knowing her commercial fisherman husband and their two teen sons (“the wolves”) nearly as well as we know film-maker wife and deeply committed mother Jill. In funny, painful, and poignant scenes, Conley captures the language—both verbal and nonverbal—of teen boys and the isolation and paralysis common to traumatized men of this socio-cultural environment.
Psychologists talk about the significance of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and such traumatic events impact both character and plot in Landslide. Like depth charges, ACE-related vulnerabilities can prompt somewhat delayed explosions, but Susan Conley also knows that even for those who might be spared such early history life involves walking across emotional minefields. Conley’s compactly eloquent writing carries readers along through both kinds of crisis, showing us the struggles that her earnest and imperfect protagonist experiences, exploring the far reaches of the journey that is “family,” and reminding us that loss is inevitable and empathy is a choice.
Landslide offers an unflinching look inside a searcher and striver. It also presents a snapshot of a lifestyle that is wounded and possibly dying. Jill Archer’s documentary film about Maine’s threatened fishing community may not find the audience it deserves, but I hope Susan Conley’s novel does. —
Read it, check out the reader responses, and add your own. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53398575-landslide
I’m late to Goodreads opining, but I’ve started with two very enjoyable novels. Landslide and Canadian author Randy Boyagoda’s Original Prin.
I plan to watch Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo’s live Zoom interview with Ms. Conley on March 4 at 7 PM. I’ve been fortunate to attend his live interviews with authors Andre Dubus III and with Anthony Doerr, and he does a great job.
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Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the TURNING POINTS blog on nedbachus.com and on his OPEN ADMISSIONS Facebook Page. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.