Sunday, September 25, 2011


5 out of 5

  • Pub. Date: February 2011

  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

  • Sold By: Random House

  • Format: NOOK Book (eBook) , 304pp


"China sat in the rooms of our house like a question," begins Conley in this luminous memoir of moving her family from Portland, Maine, to Beijing on the eve of the 2008 Olympics. Conley's husband had accepted a dream job in Beijing, and they had decided to say "yes to all the unknowns that will now rain down on us" including common difficulties faced by many families moving to a new city: a new school for her two young sons, finding new friends, and adjusting to a new apartment all compounded by the intensity of learning a difficult new language and adapting to a new culture. Conley's writing is at once spare and strong, and her description of having to present an unflappable front to her children while being hit "with a rolling wave of homesickness" pulls the reader into her world like a close friend. As Conley starts to hit her stride in her adopted city, she discovers lumps in her breast and finds herself on a different kind of journey, which she describes as "an essential aloneness that cancer has woven into my days." She explains in this engaging memoir that after her treatment in the U.S. was over, she returned to Beijing, where she searched for the perfect Chinese talisman to "ward off the leftover cancer juju" and hoping to help her boys move past their own fears of their mother's mortality.


Susan Conley lived in Beijing for more than two years, and returned to Portland, Maine, with her husband and two sons in December 2009. She is cofounder and executive director of the Telling Room, a writers’ workshop and literary hub for the region. She was an associate editor at Ploughshares and has led creative writing seminars at Emerson College in Boston. Her work has been published in The New York Times Magazine as well as The Paris ReviewHarvard ReviewPloughshares, and other literary magazines. She is currently working on a novel and settling back into life in the States.


  1. Just moved back from living in China myself so this seems an interesting book to me :)
    I joined the Global Reading challenge and that's how I landed on your blog. I'm interested to see what others read for the challenge so I will come back to learn from you :)
    Happy Reading!

  2. Hi Cessie,

    I really liked this book a lot, let me know what you think should you read it.

    Have a wonderful week-end :)