Title: The Foremost Good Fortune
Author: Susan Conley
Release Date: February 8, 2011
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Susan Conley’s husband has always had a bit of an obsession with China, but Susan has never shared his fascination. When he receives the opportunity to transfer to Beijing, he is thrilled. Though Susan agrees to the move, she is less than convinced it’s for her. She knows that her life, and the lives of her husband and two young sons, will change, but she could never predict by how much.
When Susan Conley agreed to move her family to Beijing in 2008, she had no idea what was in store for her. She was always wary of the move, but she didn’t realize how difficult it would be until she arrived in Beijing, exhausted and surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and a completely foreign language. That’s not to say that Susan doesn’t try to make the best of it - planning trips for her family, taking Mandarin lessons, and trying to experience the local culture. It’s hard not to admire Susan’s resilience and determination, but her honesty about her fears and doubts makes her easy to relate to.
Conley’s writing is wonderful in The Foremost Good Fortune. She writes clearly, and isn’t afraid to express herself fully. It’s natural to become frustrated in such a foreign environment, yet she handles it well. This isn’t a memoir of complaining or raging; it’s about Susan’s adjustment to a different life. Sometimes it happens beautifully, but other aspects are more difficult. It’s great to read, and it’s wonderful that the negative parts of the China move never get the best of Susan.
The memoir takes a completely different turn about halfway through, as Susan is diagnosed with breast cancer. This isn’t a spoiler for The Foremost Good Fortune, as she foreshadows this diagnosis throughout the first part of the book. Even with this inclusion, though, this isn’t a cancer memoir. It’s about adjusting to the crazy things life throws at you, whether it be a move to China or a horrible disease. It’s about coping and overcoming, no matter the circumstances.
The Foremost Good Fortune also makes a great introduction to China for the armchair traveler. Conley’s descriptions are enticing, and her account of the life of an expat is detailed and well-written. There are a lot of reasons to read Conley’s memoir, whether you’re interested in China, are seeking out cancer-related books, or are just a huge fan of memoirs, but really, the best reason to read it is that it’s just a really great read.