Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Elsey Come Home” as Want to Read:
Elsey Come Home
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Elsey Come Home

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  222 ratings  ·  65 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Knopf
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Elsey Come Home, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Elsey Come Home

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  222 ratings  ·  65 reviews

Sort order
Britta Böhler
Not a terrible book but, how can I put it, a bit... boring.
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Susan Conley’s Elsey Come Home revolves around alcoholism, marriage, and motherhood. Maine-born and -bred Elsey lives in Beijing with Lukas, her Danish electronic musician husband and their two young daughters. Elsey tells us that ”. . . I didn’t know how to be in a marriage. A real marriage. I’m not sure he did, either.” Once a commercially successful artist represented by no less than Saatchi, Elsey has stopped painting. Her recovery from thyroid surgery and her recurring arm pain sap her ener ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's something about Elsey you're bound to like.

She's vulnerable and open, wry and perceptive, refreshingly blunt and self-deprecating-but most of all, she's hurting up a storm. When we first meet her, she is about to venture forth on a week-long mountain retreat, a chance for participants to reinvent themselves. It's a veiled ultimatum from her husband Lucas, who is almost at the end of his rope from her drinking issues. Elsey's fear is that if she goes, she and Lucas may never find each oth
Bonnie Brody
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Elsey is a woman who is fearful of intimacy and goes so far as to lie or dissociate rather than deal with her emotions. She was once a fairly well-known and respected artist who sold her work regularly. However, after marrying Lukas and having children, she feels like she can't be both a mother and an artist. Instead, she drinks....and then drinks some more. Lukas is beside himself, as the children have grown frightened and often neglected. He strongly suggests that Elsey go on a retreat to Shas ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
She’s a wife, a mother, an artist who doesn’t believe in herself. When her husband Lukas tells her about a retreat called Shashan, she leaves her family for a week of rediscovering herself, waiting for that moment when she is “fixed” from her demons. Here’s an excerpt that really struck me: “I worked hard then to remember Lukas loved me and my girls loved me and that I wasn’t being punished. I was being helped. I stayed caught between being weak and being helped and in this way Shashan called on ...more
Cherise Wolas
Elsey is not fully inhabiting her life or her skin. She's American, from Maine, and living in Beijing with her husband Lukas, a successful electronic music composer and DJ, and their two young daughters, Myla and Elisabeth. Once a successful painter, we are dropped into her world as she's grappling or not grappling with her drinking problem, her unresolved grief over the loss of her younger sister in childhood, and her husband's desire to fix their marriage. Seemingly always quiet, she has gone ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elsey is a woman who, at first, thinks she can keep running away from herself. She gives up her art where all her emotions were expressed to try and be a mother. Essentially this is about unresolved grief, if grief ever resolved. More accurately it is about unexpressed grief. She feels she is neither wife nor mother and tries to find solace in alcohol. While at a retreat she becomes acquainted with an artist, Mei. Mei so different from Elsey yet they click. This is a novel about introspection. E ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once a successful painter, Elsey can't find the joy she once felt in life. Married with two children, Elsey drowns herself in alcohol and can't find her place as artist, wife and mother. When her husband gives her a brochure for a mountain retreat she knows she has to go. Once at the retreat Elsey meets people and finally understands what she has to do to find happiness. A really great story. Multi layered plot. I really enjoyed this.

I was give a copy from the publisher for my honest review.
Isabel Blakefield
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel wasn't at all what I anticipated. It was beautifully written and in places, it felt lyrical in other spots it was frantic and yet in others, it stopped and moved very slowly. It took me about a quarter of the book to feel like I understood what was happening. I almost stopped reading early on because I didn't know where we were going and I was feeling too distant and disconnected from Elsey, the protagonist. I was sort of wrong and I'm glad I kept going. I think the early part of this ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This spunky and surprising book is a meditation on motherhood—what it gives and what it can take. Why we put it off and also why we embrace it. Which broken parts inside of us it can heal and which it never can. In meditating on this singular and yet nearly universal experience—in settings Conley makes familiar even when they aren’t (to this reader anyway)—this lyrical novelist explores more than motherhood, more than womanhood. She explores the state of being human. I would follow Elsey anywher ...more
Lewis Robinson
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is smart and wry and completely engrossing. I found myself constantly starring/underlining sentences; there are so many to savor. I loved the short chapters and the movement in time. I never once felt bored as Elsey's story unfolded. It’s economically written, though it feels lush with the colors/smells/sounds of its setting. There's such wisdom and beauty in this book.
Allen Adams
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I’ve been a book reviewer for over a decade. As such, I have seen a lot of books cross my desk – so many, in fact, that there’s no way that I could ever read them all. Some cuts are easy, while others are genuinely hard decisions.

One such cut I made back in 2011 was Susan Conley’s memoir “The Foremost Good Fortune.” It was one of the hard ones, but I made it. And when I finally revisited the book some years later, I realized that not only was the decision
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Two and a half stars.

Several elements of Elsey Come Home mirror Conley's memoir The Foremost Good Fortune; Conley's experience living in China with cancer clearly inspired some of this novel. However, the novel lacks focus and vacillates between several subplots and themes including addiction, marriage and parenthood, Elsey's friendship with a Chinese woman she meets at a retreat, her career as a painter, and her childhood memories. The i
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautifully written novel that I couldn’t put down. It was the kind of writing where I reread certain sentences or paragraphs several times because they put to words feelings and emotions that are very difficult to capture. It’s a novel about a woman’s personal journey from being lost and disconnected to finding her way forward. The small and large traumas of life accumulated over many years until they had to be dealt with and could no longer be deprioritzed. It felt incredibly person ...more
Susan Walker
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story of a mother, wife and painter at a crossroads is a winner. The character of Elsey is wonderful.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library
I didn’t enjoy this book at all. Not sure why, as I think it had a lot of interesting elements: former artist now expat in China struggling with illness, children, marriage, her sisters long ago death, alcoholism. Odd yoga retreat. But for some reason, it never clicked. I found it disjointed, boring, and not for me.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: r-pfr
Elsey Come Home by Susan Conley is the journey of a woman struggling with addiction. In some ways, the book begins with the ending. The rest of the book is further definition how Elsey gets there. This book confuses me. Too many characters. Too many time periods. Too many details. And yet, at the same time, not enough to pull me in emotionally. Sadly, I find myself unable to follow and unable to be the reader for this book.

Read my complete review at

Jane Sloven
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read straight through Elsey Come Home, taking time out only to make notes on a slew of sentences. So many were gems—sentences that encapsulated truths or ones that open the heart.

This book looks small, but it’s very, very large in so many ways. It skilfully portrays our struggles as women, balancing creativity with marriage and parenting and relationships. It is also a story of Americans living abroad in China, a country which comes alive here, too. Elsey Come Home is a beautiful, deep, thoug
Romantic Intentions Quarterly
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: womens-fiction
It’s possible that there is just too much going on in this book. There is Elsey – wry, clever, falling apart Elsey – an artist who has lost her will to paint in the wake of motherhood. There is Elsey’s alcohol problem, which her DJ husband decides to solve by sending her to a retreat in the Chinese mountains. (They live in China, it should be mentioned.) There are the fellow lost souls she meets there, and Elsey’s long-buried trauma, and her feelings of unworthiness. And all the time you’re worr ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever gone shopping on an empty stomach and you can’t make any decisions? That’s what this book was like. I felt that same foggy feeling that Elsey describes throughout the entire book. It also made me want to eat chicken and dumplings, but I think that’s just me. But maybe it will be you too?
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Once a successful painter, Elsey can't find the joy she once felt in life. Married with two children, Elsey drowns herself in alcohol and can't find her place as artist, wife and mother. When her husband gives her a brochure for a mountain retreat she knows she has to go. Once at the retreat Elsey meets people and finally understands what she has to do to find happiness. A really great story. Multi layered plot. I really enjoyed this.

I was give a copy from the publisher for my honest review.
Katherine Longstreth
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found the voice of Elsey to be so relatable that it was unnerving. This is an unflinching look at the interior world of an artist, a mother, a wife and a drinker. After an illness knocks Elsey off her game in a surprisingly complete way, she struggles to find herself within these four identities. What is so impressive about this book is that the overwhelming, foggy struggle of Elsey's state of mind, almost like that of a person struggling with synesthesia, is conveyed by a voice which is spare ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Elsey Come Home, Susan Conley, author; narrator, Cassandra Campbell
This is a quick read, perfect for a plane ride and vacation. It examines the “coming of age” of a woman Elsey, a painter, who should have already achieved the status of an adult. However, the death of her sister, when she was very young, and her mother’s reaction to it, shaped and distorted her view of herself and her life. Although she has an ideal life, with a loving husband, Lukas, and two children, Myla and Elisabeth, age 7 a
Denise Carver
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of Susan Conley’s The Foremost Good Fortune, I eagerly anticipated her newest release, and needless to say, I was not disappointed. Susan Conley writes in a way that feels intimate and detailed and leaves you feeling connected with the characters, even in this shorter work. When it first started out, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the premise - a woman struggling with life, love and parenting, being sent away by her husband to a yoga retreat (yawn); however, by the time I was more than ...more
Karin Schott
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I am reading an advanced copy of this book.

There will be a full review soon. However I wanted to share this moment...

Behold! A bookseller sorting advanced reader copies in the back room...

"Oh, wow! Look at that great cover art. Hmm." Bookseller flips book over to read about the book.
"Check out the blurbs! Michael Paterniti, oh I love his collection of essays. Hey? Look! Bill Roorbach blurbed it! Loved his Remedy for Love. Richard Russo too?! Hmm, these are all Maine authors. Conley is from Main
Patricia Baker
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
do not know what I expected from this book. it was well written, the story line was depressing. Elsey had a sister who died of cancer while she was in high school. I do not think she ever grieved completely for her sister and that shaped her future life. she found some focus as an artist, but as a married woman with two girls of her own she lost her place. alcohol helped to fill the gag until it did not. off to a weekend long find yourself retreat which was a little bit of a torture. at the end ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

This quick little book started out not being able to hold my attention too much but by the time I was more than halfway through I was really invested in Elsey. There is so much suffering and so much realness and so much tenderness in this book. Marriage is hard. Being a human is hard. And while I don't drink, I could still connect to her feeling of wanting to escape and her feelings around choosing between being a mother and being a thing you want to be (painter in this case) and bein
Electa Sevier
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful novel about motherhood and family. It drew me in from the very beginning and I loved being in Elsey's head. She is at once so familiar, as a mother who is torn between her role as a mother and her ambitions and dreams, and so unusual to me, as an expat living in China. Conley captures all the ways that family can subsume you and how important it is to find yourself within it. The vignettes throughout this novel were so vivid and kept me firmly ensconced in Elsey's world. This ...more
Melanie Coombes
This book was okay for me. It was a very quick read, but it covered a lot of topics. Elsey is an american expat living in China. She is an artist, married and has 2 children. However, she finds she has lost the ability to still create art and live a fulfilling life. She drinks alot and seems very lost. Her husband, who is Dutch, strongly urges Elsey to attend a retreat for one week in the mountains. While I enjoyed the story, I found myself wanting to read it quickly to finish it. I never really ...more
Claudia Wagener
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. Each chapter is only a couple of pages long, so you really get to read as much or as little as you want every time you go to read it.

The author’s way of writing kept me engaged for most of the book. The ending was a bit of a letdown, as I felt that nothing really happened. I expected more, or I at least expected the ending to be standard but written in a thought provoking way.

Overall, this book has given me insight on marriage and insecurity in relationships. I would have l
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - "Elsey Come Home" by Susan Conley 2 11 Dec 22, 2018 06:30PM  
  • Beauty & the Biker (Impossible Dream, #1)
  • Hearth Stone (Home in the Hills, #1)
  • Trouble Me (The Rosewood Trilogy, #3)
  • Summer Shift
  • Margaret from Maine
  • Gathering the Threads
  • Blue Stars
  • The Taste of Air
  • The Westward Christmas Brides Collection: 9 Historical Romances Answer the Call of the American West
  • Paper Marriage Proposition (Gage Brothers #1)
  • Bringing Maggie Home
  • The Promise of Rayne
  • The Loved Ones
  • Someone Like You
  • The Good Life
  • The Art of Devotion
  • The Guilty One
  • Reservations for Two (Two Blue Doors #2)

Susan Conley is the author of Elsey Come Home (Knopf, January 2019), a Library Journal Pre-Pub Alert pick for January. 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."
Susan is also the author of Paris Was the Place (Knopf, August 2013), an Amazon Fall Big Books Pic
“I want to be the heroine of my story. And you, too, Elsey. You, too, be the heroine. Not the victim. Understand? Because the heroine is the one who owns the story.” 0 likes
More quotes…