‘Landslide’: Susan Conley’s new story of a mother guiding her family through crisis and healing
In the Landslide novel, Susan Conley, a fishing accident leaves protagonist Jill’s husband, Kit, hospitalized in Canada. Jill has to take care of her two sons – two teenagers whom she calls “the wolves”. Money was already tight for the family. Kit’s prognosis worsens, which means a longer hospital stay and growing tensions at home with the boys. And then Jill suspects that her husband has been unfaithful. As Jill becomes the pillar that holds everything together to keep the family together, home life in the fishing village of Maine begins to crumble, a real landslide about to overwhelm them all.
Highlights from the interview with Susan Conley
On the title of the novel and its connection to the song by Fleetwood Mac
It really is a writer’s greatest hope that a reader picks up on these threads we are pulling on. And I was really trying to unwrap that word over and over again. I mean, starting with the Stevie Nicks song and this idea of falling love, then climate change and looming financial disaster, then Kit’s crash. So when he’s injured and he’s taken by helicopter to the nearest hospital, he’s fishing off Georges Bank and he’s taken to Nova Scotia and all of a sudden our novel narrator Jill , has that kind of classic choice to make, to be with him or to be with “the wolves” because teenagers at their age and because they live on an island, they cannot be left alone for too long. And that’s kind of one of the tension lines in the whole book, is how can she kind of be everything for everyone. And how does she put her finger in the barrage of this landslide of change that really surrounds her? Will her husband, Kit, ever be able to fish again? That was a big question I asked in the book and a big question fishermen here in Maine really ask themselves every week, every day.
About Writing About Teen Inner Lives
It was so emotionally true for my experience of being a witness and a neighborhood mom to dozens and dozens of boys and seeing how vulnerable they are and how much rich and rich thinking is going on in their inner lives and how they are misinterpreted. We know these things. I mean, these things are in our, in the ether. We know we’ve heard of the silent boy, but I haven’t read much about this boy in fiction and contemporary fiction. I often felt like the teenager may be more of a mainstream character, and I was determined to give them respect on the page and show them in danger and see how they would react. I was also really exploring the fact that there is quite a multigenerational legacy of masculinity here on the coast of Maine, which you point out with, with Jimmy the Grandpa. So how could I go from Jimmy to Kit his son and then to these very emotionally educated boys but still boys who won’t show their cards very often. They’re going, they’re going to play – especially Sam – is going to play hard and sarcastic, but then he’s going to want to lay in bed and snuggle up to his mom.
On mother character Jill using Instagram as a way to understand her son
I am 53 years old. I had my first cell phone – I think when I was 40 years old. And I feel like I’m at that sort of dividing line between the kind of smartphone revolution and Luddits. I don’t live on my phone, but I have kids. I have teenagers and they have this kind of love affair with their phone that always makes it feel like it unlocks something for them, that there’s this story going on. And it was too easy – kind of evasive – to just disparage Instagram, but I really wanted to consistently tap it to show it’s like the running tale of many teenage lives.
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