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ONE OF THE “BEST WOMEN’S FICTION OF 2019 (SO FAR)”—MARIE CLAIRE
ONE OF THE “61 BOOKS WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO READING IN 2019”—THE HUFFINGTON POST
ONE OF THE “16 FICTION RELEASES TO WATCH FOR”—WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF BOOKS
ONE OF THE “BEST NEW BOOKS COMING OUT WINTER 2019”—SOUTHERN LIVING
ONE OF THE “10 NEWLY-RELEASED BOOKS THAT WILL GIVE YOU AN EXCUSE TO STAY INDOORS THIS WINTER”—O MAGAZINE
“I loved, loved this novel” —Lily King “What more can I say—perfect” —Judy Blume
“In this intricate, delicate-as-rice-paper novel, an American painter living in Beijing and trying to clean up her act at a yoga retreat makes gains in fits and starts, ‘a butterfly, flitting from leaf to leaf.’”—O Magazine
From the widely praised author of Paris Was the Place—a shattering new novel that bravely delves into the darkest corners of addiction, marriage, and motherhood
When Elsey’s husband, Lukas, hands her a brochure for a weeklong mountain retreat, she knows he is really giving her an ultimatum: Go, or we’re done. Once a successful painter, Elsey set down roots in China after falling passionately for Lukas, the tall, Danish MC at a warehouse rave in downtown Beijing. Now, with two young daughters and unable to find a balance between her identities as painter, mother, and, especially, wife, Elsey fills her days worrying, drinking, and descending into desperate unhappiness. So, brochure in hand, she agrees to go and confront the ghosts of her past. There, she meets a group of men and women who will forever alter the way she understands herself: from Tasmin, another (much richer) expat, to Hunter, a young man whose courage endangers them all, and, most important, Mei--wife of one of China’s most famous artists and a renowned painter herself--with whom Elsey quickly forges a fierce friendship and whose candidness about her pain helps Elsey understand her own. But Elsey must risk tearing herself and Lukas further apart when she decides she must return to her childhood home--the center of her deepest pain--before she can find her way back to him. Written in a voice at once wry, sensual, blunt, and hypnotic, Elsey Come Home is a modern odyssey and a quietly dynamic portrait of contemporary womanhood.
Probing questions about how to balance motherhood, a career, marriage, and a drinking problem resonate throughout Conley's excellent novel narrated by an American painter looking back on her past few years in China, which were mostly spent teetering on the verge of a breakdown. When Elsey's Dutch husband, Lukas, suggests she attend a weeklong spiritual retreat, Elsey begrudgingly capitulates to save their crumbling marriage. But the experience isn't as woo-woo as she expects. Instead, while learning to weather the dreaded "Talking Circle" and enduring the day of silence, she alternates between closing herself off from her emotions and ruminating on her demons, including the death of her younger sister when they were children, and her inability to "understand how to be obsessed with children and obsessed with painting at the same time." Elsey also befriends Mei, an esteemed painter married to another esteemed painter, whose frankness about feeling trapped in a restrictive country and marriage gives Elsey perspective. Though Elsey continues to falter and obsess over past decisions after returning home, her growing ability to tackle previously insurmountable challenges (her daughter's appendicitis, a visit to her childhood home, AA meetings, a return to painting) proves she is slowly learning how to "be a different kind of mother. A different kind of wife." Conley (Paris Was the Place) hits the mark on a story line that feels both high-stakes and fine-tuned. But it's the raw desperation of Elsey's inner dialogue that elevates the novel, making for an honest and astute depiction of the human psyche.