A stranger in a foreign country

She’s a young mother with two small children….recently uprooted by her husband’s new job,  living in a foreign country.  Confronted by constant cultural challenges, she feels isolated and alone.

That’s the premise of Susan Conley’s new book, The Foremost Good Fortune; set in China, where she lives for a few years.  While living there, she’s diagnosed with breast cancer—which, as Conley observes, is in itself a foreign country.

You are a stranger in your own body.

No passport needed—but entering the country of Cancer means instant immersion into a new world of terminology, thoughts, and emotions— As Conley comments, “What is true and what is not true in cancer and in China is always changing.  I learn as I go.”

It’s no mystery that I could identify with her story—since it so closely parallels mine.   I, too, lived in Cancer,  alone with my husband, my children– and my fear.  In other ways, our experiences were different—Carmel was foreign to me, but chopsticks are optional.  And Conley had some good fortune on her side— a good prognosis, treatment in the US where she was comforted and surrounded by family and friends.

Most of all, unlike me, Conley tells her story with more detail than drama.  Actually it would be an injustice to describe this as a memoir about cancer— it’s far more about dealing with China and children than dealing with cancer.  And it’s fascinating to see China through Conley’s eyes and observations.

It’s a country that’s always intrigued me.  Years ago I spent one day there; ever since, I’ve been wanting to go back; and I plan to do it as soon as I can.

But Cancer is a country I don’t plan to re-visit.  Ever.  Ever.  Again.

I decided from now on, to share any books I write about.  If you’d like to read Susan Conley’s book, The Foremost Good Fortune, please leave a comment and I’ll send it to someone.


  1. Natalia Miles says:

    Hi Darryl,

    I love reading your “I Never Signed Up For This”! I just returned from the Bering Sea: I was teaching on a Coast Guard cutter, and I read your blogs to keep sane. Yes, I would love to read the new novel, The Foremost Good Fortune! I’m volunteering at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas; if you ever want to stop by, I will leave some free tickets for you. Even if I am not there, you can still use the free admission. I hope that you are doing great!


  2. Wow, what a journey and what an adventure!! Love thinking of you connected to me somehow in the middle of the Bering Sea.
    Would love to stop by the Steinbeck Center sometime—thanks for reaching out and hope you’ll enjoy The Foremost Good Fortune, will send it to you.

Leave a Comment