Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: The Foremost Good Fortune by Susan Conley

The Foremost Good Fortune
Author: Susan Conley
Published: February 8, 2011
Genre: memoir
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: provided by Knopf

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from In 2007, American writer Susan Conley moves to Beijing with her husband and two young sons. Six months later, she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Set against the fascinating backdrop of modern China and full of insight into the trickiest questions of motherhood, this wry and poignant memoir is a celebration of family and a candid exploration of mortality and belonging.

My Thoughts: Susan Conley's memoir chroncling her family's time in China creates a beautiful travelogue, but it's her battle with breast cancer in a foreign land that make this book a great one. Mother to two young boys, Susan follows her husband all the way to China for a two year stint. Leaving behind their family and friends in Maine, they pack up their belongings and board their flight, unsure of what they are going to encounter. While her husband, Tony, has been to China before and is fluent in the language, but Susan is not. It creates for an amusing and sometimes heartbreaking story. Less than one year into their stay, Susan discovers lumps right by her collarbone. A Chinese doctor tells her to wait three months, but after talking to her doctor back in the US, she goes back. Turns out, she has breast cancer. She then spends sometime in Boston, goes back to Beijing, back to Boston with the whole faimly, then back.

I loved the timespan of this book. You truly see Susan grow throughout their stay in China. At the beginning of the trip, she is shy, timid, unsure of what to do or say. By the end of their time in China, she still maybe unsure of what to do, but she is confident in her actions and behaves as if she has lived in Beijing her whole life. The other thing that I really loved about this book was the writing. I felt as if I was with the Conley family, playing badmition in their apartment, driving to the Great Wall, trying new Chinese cuisine. Susan writes with great clarity, which is especially evident when talking about her need for friendships in this foreign country. There is a large expat community, but it consists of people from all over the world, who may not speak English. I felt for Susan, her need to find friends, people that she could talk with. She writes so clearly, it hurt sometimes hearing her speak about how alone she felt.

This is one of the best memoirs I have read. It's insightful, funny (at times), heartbreaking, and uplifting. It's a great read and I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Conley's work in the future.

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