Raising Teenage Sons & Other Difficulties in Life
Landslide is the story of Jill and Kit Archer and their sons, Charlie and Sam, ages 17 and 16. Kit comes from a long line of fishermen in Maine and as the story opens, he’s been away from home, fishing in Nova Scotia, for an especially long period of time. He was already gone for three months when there was an explosion on the boat, causing him to be airlifted to a hospital in that Canadian Province.
Jill is torn between being with Kit and being with the boys, whom she calls “the wolves.” Ultimately, she decides she needs to be with them. A suspected affair between Kit and a female boat mate named Marsh plays into this decision.
From this starting point, the author explores several main issues: the many challenges of the fishing industry, the many challenges of marriage, and the many challenges of raising teenagers. The first two topics get their fair share of coverage in this book, especially the fishing industry, because Jill is a filmmaker who creates documentaries on this topic.
As important as these topics are, they take a back seat to what I saw as the main plot line – one mother’s journey through the teen years. This topic is developed through countless conversations between mother and sons and through the mom’s processing of these dialogues as she deals with the boys’ sex lives, drug use, and school issues. And let’s not forget that she is doing this while her husband/their father is absent.
Having raised three kids myself, these conversations were so real that I laughed and cried and ached through each one. I felt two things simultaneously: that I could not handle one more story and that I couldn’t wait to see what the boys would say next.
Writers are told to write what they know. After reading Landslide, it seems Susan Conley knows a lot about raising two teenage sons. I check her bio and yep, there they are, two sons, now young men.
I can’t close without mentioning the book title. We learn on the first page that Jill was “raised on Stevie Nicks.” This being the case, it is interesting to note a song also called “Landslide.” In researching it, I learn that Nicks wrote it while visiting Aspen, Colorado and looking at the Rocky Mountains as she pondered the avalanche of everything that had recently come crashing down on her in life.
This is a perfect analogy for Jill’s life, as it is wrenchingly portrayed, in this beautifully written book.
NOTE to readers: I was given a review copy of the book by the publisher. Please be on the lookout for this book’s debut on February 2, 2021.