When Susan Conley moved with her husband and two young sons from Maine to Beijing, she was prepared for a year of new experiences and big changes. Conley will be at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis on March 19, 2011.
Though Chinese customs and language posed a struggle, Susan embraced her new high-intensity life. While her husband worked to convince banks to implement a credit rating system in a country where credit cards aren’t accepted, Susan focused on tasks that were very different, if no less perplexing: how to buy produce at a Chinese mega-market (paying the cashier doesn’t cut it), fielding invitations to things like “Sweater Parties,” and working to establish new friends-akin to dating, and “very Jane Austen.”
In The Foremost Good Fortune (February 8, 2011 Alfred-A-Knopf), Conley brings us a memoir of her time in China that Booklist calls “compelling and humorous – Beautifully written and insightful on many levels.”
Nothing occupies Susan’s mind and energies more than caring for her two confused and frustrated little boys as they try to find their way in a world totally unlike the one they used to know.
Bit by bit, they make friends and adjust to life in China. And though it’s more than she bargained for, life in Beijing isn’t anything Susan can’t handle-until she finds a lump in her breast and receives the news that nobody wants to hear, least of all in faltering English while lying in a Chinese operating room. After completing an aggressive treatment regimen in the States, Susan returns to China as a foreigner yet again-but this time, it’s her own body in which she doesn’t feel at home.
Filled with candid insights about the difficulties and small triumphs that can make or break one’s day when attempting to navigate a foreign culture. The Foremost Good Fortune is a touching exploration of the big questions of life and of motherhood-how do you talk to children about life and death? When is it okay to lie? – and an unsparing look at the realities of coming face to face with mortality when one least expects it.