A thoughtful exploration of the demographic and economic shifts that have been taking place in towns up and down the Maine coast in recent years. It’s a story of struggles—the struggle to make ends meet, the struggle to find fulfillment, the struggle of married life and motherhood—marked by occasional small moments of personal victory. All of it refracted through the prism of one woman’s perspective ... She sets up shop in her protagonist’s head, giving the reader a first-hand look at the inner strife that comes with experiencing changes that are largely unwelcome and more than a little frightening ... a thoughtful and unflinching deconstruction of the relatively small world in which one woman lives, digging into what it means to love and to be loved. In this book, love is rewarding, yes, but it is also hard, with the ties that bind us constantly evolving due to circumstances both internal and external. Sometimes, we are hurt by the ones we love and are left to reckon with that hurt as best we can. And yet we love them still ... It is all brought to the fore by Conley’s lean, deft prose.
Deterioration marks every aspect of Landslide, which is enveloping and warm, if slightly undercooked and sometimes flat-footed ... Conley’s writing can be uneven, but there’s a lot of heart in it—a compliment that sounds treacly but is meant earnestly. She has a gift for writing tiny, meaningful interactions ... Conley isn’t afraid to inject a little hope that these creatures will find their way back home.
... the tensions she describes in the lives of longtime Mainers on the verge of change certainly seemed to resonate with my novice observations ... Landslide offers no real solutions—either for these larger systemic issues or for the Archer family’s woes—but Conley does offer a fond and thoughtful exploration of the questions, and a loving portrait of a flawed family trying their best to muddle through, both individually and together.
In spare, incisive prose, Conley captures the beauty and might of nature, a mother’s awesome drive to protect her children, and the fraught trial and error inherent in navigating the complexities of multigenerational family relationships.
An invigorating, informative read. Jill’s strong voice throughout gives a sense of immediacy, and the prose is punchy, economical, and wry. We learn how fishing quotas impact her town’s shaky economy and how gentrification is overtaking Maine’s harbor towns, a context that elevates the story beyond mere domestic drama.
In Conley’s immersive latest, a self-aware mother whose fisherman husband is laid up in a Nova Scotia hospital struggles to keep it together while looking after her two teenage sons ... While the ending feels a bit too tidy, Conley is at her best capturing Maine’s coastal terrain as well as Jill’s emotional turmoil. Through her disarmingly authentic family portrait, Conley speaks volumes about changing ways of life.
Between global warming and decreasing quotas, Kit Archer is well aware that he might see fishing disappear in his lifetime. Yet, given that the occupation is the only thing he has ever known, he chases catches off Georges Bank ... Conley is at her best when chronicling the very real forces Jill balances while walking a fine line between empathizing with and laying down boundaries for her children. The rather pat ending does a disservice to the nuance with which the narrative portrays Jill’s simmering resentment at her husband’s apparent infidelity and her self-perception as an outsider ... A compelling portrait of a family trying to stay afloat and weather every storm life throws at them.