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Just as she's beginning to get a handle on things, she discovers two lumps in her left breast. Beijing is not the place to be when you have a cancer concern, as Conley quickly learns when the Chinese doctor recommends that she wait three months before taking any action. She wisely consults her stateside doctor who uges her to act immediately.

Summary and reviews of The Foremost Good Fortune by Susan Conley

It turns out to be cancer, and it's clear she needs to return to the U. Conley provides an interesting outsider's perception of a very different culture, an experience colored by the stress and fear of fighting cancer in unknown territory. Jun 16, Cristy Boisvert rated it it was amazing.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Married to a man from Beijing, I've often wondered what it would be like to live in China. Her husband takes a job in Beijing, so they pack up their house in Portland, Maine and embark on the journey of a lifetime with their two young boys.

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Her cautious-adventurous spirit is relatable, especially as a middle-aged mother. She fumbles socially, attempting to make friends but finds herself lost in translation. Her children seem to be adjusting better than she does. Just as she seems to get a hold on the culture she discovers she is a foreigner in her own body when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. She returns to Boston for surgery and treatment, where she discovers how fortunate she is to have a steady support system waiting for her at home in Maine.

Spending time in her quiet home town, surrounded by people who love her is exactly what she needs. Post treatment, they return to Beijing to rejoin her husband. The relationships she forges with the key players in their Beijing life are precious and unforgettable. She draws a heady parallel between living in a foreign country and living in a body ridden with cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Next stop: Paris in her novel Paris Was the Place. Nov 26, Benjamin Rubenstein rated it really liked it Shelves: overdrive , kindle. My husband is sitting by my side on the floor next to the couch holding the tubing while Judith massages me. But he is not in the lake. Only people with cancer can be in the lake. So where Tony is could best be described as on the shore waiting for me to come back. Maybe he is rummaging in the forest for wood to make a fire to keep us warm. But the biggest surprise of all is still that Tony is not in the lake.

The thin line between having and not having seems malleable sometimes, but for me that line is everything.


It separates. That is in part because Susan is my teacher, my mentor, my writing-epiphany creator, my friend. I bet many other commenters have hit on some of those same thoughts and feelings, so maybe here is one that is more novel: Susan is a badass. Feb 25, Ruby rated it really liked it. Being from Maine, and having lived various parts of my life in Asia, including China, I really enjoyed her honesty and candor. She tells the truth about the internal controversies a mom has.

Never mind a mom who is diagnosed with Cancer in the midst of the big family adventure. Mar 27, Sherry Spencer rated it it was amazing. I loved this book. It's the story of an American family who moves to China for 2 years. Only the dad knows Chinese, so the mom and 2 little boys have a lot to learn about the culture and language.

The story is told by the mom and she had me laughing and crying. Jul 10, Shelly rated it it was amazing. Feb 16, C Frisbie rated it it was amazing. The Foremost Good Fortune is a testament my belief that the best storytellers begin as poets. After earning an MFA in poetry and going on to publish poems in some of the nation's best journals, Susan Conley has written a memoir that can feel like a poem in its exploration of language and voice, yet the book also bears the virtues of creative non-fiction: strong stories and reader friendly writing.

This mix makes for a fascinating ride through modern China! Unlike many memoirs, Conley's doesn't force her story into a play-by-play document of everything that happened to her in China. Instead, she weaves together select memories that don't necessarily follow one another in obvious ways. The reader will enjoy stringing connections between these vividly detailed, often humorous, and suspenseful anecdotes. Which is so much fun. I also have to add that Conley's kids say the most unpredictable, laugh-out-loud, or profound things--which kept me constantly on my toes and waiting for their next chance to speak.

At first, I was interested in hearing about modern China from the perspective of an American who has just lived there for three years. I don't normally read books about motherhood or breast cancer, but I'm deeply thankful I picked up this one. Conley has translated her experiences into a gripping story that will fill anyone with a fresh sense of meaning and heightened awareness. In The Foremost Good Fortune, each chapter becomes a literal, emotional, and mental adventure that coheres within the book's overarching themes of American motherhood, adult expat life in Beijing a city where hardly anyone speaks English , and the shadow of breast cancer that comes to define, for Conley, the illuminations of her life.

As she leads you through her personal discoveries, Conley will point you toward the small and large moments that make us all feel alive. Mar 21, Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing. Most authors of books on relocating to an exotic part of the world are thrilled to be on their journey. Susan Conely is openly ambivalent and that is part of what makes this book so eye-opening and interesting. Her sons were resistant and unhappy at first, but then they seemed to be adjusting faster than she was.

Though Conely is both accomplished and independent she did not arrive in China knowing the language and so found herself uncomfortably more dependent on her husband than she ever had been at home in Maine. Starting from scratch she began learning the language, finding friends and enjoying her life in a new and sometimes beautiful country. Then she got cancer. A well written page turner. Dec 31, Sally rated it liked it Shelves: cover-to-cover , to-read-in I read through some of the other reviews of this book, and it was widely liked. However, I had some majori issues. The memoir retells about the years that Susan Conley spent in China with her husband and her two young sons.

During this time, she had to adjust to a completely new culture, new language, and new routines. She also was faced with the devastating news that she had breast cancer. In theory, the things that happened to her were monumental.

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  • I can't even imagine the changes that she and h I read through some of the other reviews of this book, and it was widely liked. I can't even imagine the changes that she and her family went though - it's one thing to move across the world when it's just you, but to move an entire family, that's just a little ok, a lot crazy!

    However, in reality, I just got frustrated. I felt that she was struggling from the beginning, and while she did THINGS to take in the country, she never truly embraced it. She was constantly irritated, constantly annoyed, and constantly unhappy. I was originally thinking that she would move past it, but it kept coming up through every part of the book.

    I think she broached acceptance towards the end, but not enough for me to truly fall in love with the book I don't know - it just didn't grab me. I was looking forward to the end of the book by the time I was halfway through.

    Foremost Good Fortune

    That's not a good sign. Feb 18, Qi Fu rated it it was amazing. I must start by saying that I usually don't love memoir so was skeptical when a friend in the states pointed me to the video on susan conley dot com The video immediately drew me in, I read the first chapter on line, ordered the kindle version and could not put it down after that. I have lived in China for six years and can say that this book vividly captures Beijing on the eve of the Olympics and the feelings that every foreigner has when living in a new environment as an ex-pat. It brought back I must start by saying that I usually don't love memoir so was skeptical when a friend in the states pointed me to the video on susan conley dot com The video immediately drew me in, I read the first chapter on line, ordered the kindle version and could not put it down after that.

    It brought back many memories of when I first moved here and the experiences we had as a young family trying to navigate all of the new complexities of life in China. What makes this book for me is the writing. The author's incredible eye for detail, the subtle ways in which she treats topics of mortality and isolation and the wonderful sense of humor throughout. The way in which she explores the universal truths through her children's eyes is priceless.

    Would recommend to everyone--father, mother, daughter, son. Mar 08, Gretchen rated it really liked it. A wonderful read!! I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Conley at a book-signing in her honor. Had I read the book ahead of time, there would have been much more to say, compliments to offer and questions to ask! I don't think I've ever read a memoir before - cerainly not one written by someone whose hand I have shaken.

    Her words are so smart, so vivid, she introduces the reader to the wonders and complexities of China - it's culture, people, landscape and language. I laughed, I cried - hers is a A wonderful read!! I laughed, I cried - hers is a story that sticks with you.

    Her experience as a mother and cancer survivor are completely relatable and so heart-felt. Bravo, Susan. Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to reading more from you! Sep 09, Heather rated it really liked it. I won this book by entering through the Giveaway section. My copy is sgined by the author, Susan Conley. I enjoyed this book very much, as Conley shares her story of living in China and surviving cancer.

    She relays her experiences in an endearing and real way. I somehow thought the entire book was going to center around her cancer, but I was happy to discover that she wrote about her family's quirky adjustments to a new country, and how they came together to triumph over adversity. Conley does n I won this book by entering through the Giveaway section. Conley does not sugar coat it though -- she doesn't shy away from exposing the pain, discord and sense of isolation.

    I would recommend reading this book, and am so glad I had the opportunity to hear her story! Mar 06, Michelle rated it it was amazing Shelves: memoir , around-the-world. Until the last few chapters, I hadn't planned on rating this book so highly. It seemed a little too introspective and, well, navel-gazing at times to me. The author moves to Beijing with her husband and two sons, experiences difficulties in adjusting to life there, and then discovers she has breast cancer.

    But in the last few chapters, I ended up being glad the author had been so very honest, so transparent. I really felt like I'd experienced and learned some of what she had experienced and lear Until the last few chapters, I hadn't planned on rating this book so highly. I really felt like I'd experienced and learned some of what she had experienced and learned, and I'm glad she took us on the journey, warts and all. Very good read.

    May 15, Erika rated it really liked it. I really enjoyed this book, though I wanted to feel even more deeply her emotional experience of being diagnosed with cancer in the most foreign of countries, China. Beautifully written. Would make a compelling movie if done right.

    Jul 31, Todd Smith rated it it was amazing Shelves: memoir. This book was vividly rewritten. She spent a lot of time detailing her time in China, in which the book was about. Yet, it was more than that when her cancer diagnosis and her treatment. This was the real emotional heart of the book as she found her way back to normalcy after beating breast cancer. The details of life in China and what she went through will stay with me for a while.

    Jan 31, Linda rated it really liked it Shelves: asian-american , memoir , nonfiction , china. If you were ever curious about what it would be like to live in modern day China this memoir describes it beautifully. The smoggy air, the high rise buildings of Beijing, the noodle shops all become part of this families daily life. Intertwined is the authors diagnosis with cancer while they are there and a brief experience with the Chinese medical system before returning to the US for treatment. May 12, Nicole rated it liked it.

    I made the mistake of reading a lot of reviews about this book before I read it, so I was probably going into it planning to be disappointed. Thankfully, I was pretty happy with the book until the bitter end.

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    • There are no real plot twists or surprises but reading about day-to-day life in bustling Beijing was oddly soothing and, as a former expat myself, very relatable. Apr 07, Hayley rated it really liked it.

      'The Foremost Good Fortune,' by Susan Conley

      I put off reading this due to concerns that it would be too depressing. It was not, there was more introspection into cancer which I appreciated. The writing was a little boring, I found it oddly calming. I don't think I'd be friends with this author in real life, but enjoyed the book.

      Feb 17, Kirsten rated it really liked it Shelves: memoir. This is both a fish-out-of-water memoir and a cancer memoir.

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      Somehow the combination of the two worked for me. Her disorientation at living in a very different culture gets compounded by the disorientation of a serious illness. I liked this a lot. Jan 18, Roberta rated it it was ok Shelves: travel-adventure , memoir.

      This was more lije two stories. One is the family's move to China and the second her experience of breast cancer. I found myself feeling very judgemental. Even before the cancer, she felt self-absorbed and whiney and her writing was just OK. Finished it but wasn't thrilled. Actually 2. Mar 22, Kmweber rated it really liked it. This book made me feel like I was experiencing Beijing first hand and was taking the journey with her and her family.

      Trailer for The Foremost Good Fortune, a memoir by Susan Conley

      Readers also enjoyed. Biography Memoir. About Susan Conley. Susan Conley. Kirkus writes that the "novel illustrates the power of storytelling as a process for healing. What entices and endures here is the voice: dreamy, meditative, hypnotic, and very real. It won the Maine Literary Award for Memoir. Books by Susan Conley.

      Trivia About The Foremost Good We hold our breath when stone-faced police request the identification she is not carrying as required.

      The Foremost Good Fortune (Hardcover)

      We are also keenly aware of the political. Yet we know from the start that Conley will discover she has breast cancer, and artful foreshadowing weaves additional heft through every page. She is always conscious of the children, who are funny and honest and provide much of the humor in these pages. She is also an accomplished poet, and maintains absolute control of her narrative, resulting in a book that is a structural delight.

      The whole is divided into small scene-sections, and she goes beyond the use of the present tense to write in a kind of immediate tense:. After a successful surgery and a summer of radiation, the family returns to Beijing, where Conley begins to write the memoir that will help her sort out her relationship to cancer, to China, to her family, and to herself. At first, China feels foreign again, as does her own body. To let the river carry you.