The editors of call The Conditions of Love “a stirring blend of realism and fable-like odyssey” and are featuring it as one of “9 Young Adult Novels That Mine Truth from American History.” They even created a short video montage to illustrate the story of the book. Reading group members may especially want to share this wonderful video, which features eight other novels young adult readers are likely to enjoy, in addition to The Conditions of Love.

Eunice grows up fighting for love from the people who should love her unconditionally but is bolstered by love from unexpected sources…Eunice is a lonely, artistic girl who grows into a temperamental young woman whose strength and capacity for love belie her tough upbringing. This is poet Kushner’s first novel, and her roots show; passages describing even the bleakest Midwestern landscapes are artfully drawn. A coming-of-age story that wonderfully combines literary style with heartbreaking plot twists and still manages to be uplifting—


A teenage girl endures fire, flood and the loss of her parents in this bracing, oddly uplifting debut.

Kushner seems to have taken more than a few lessons from Joyce Carol Oates about both crafting a novel with a broad scope and putting female characters through the wringer. But there’s also a lightness to Eunice’s narration that keeps the Job-ian incidents from feeling oppressive—she’s observant, witty and genuinely matures across the nine years in which the novel is set… Kushner is remarkably poised for a first-time novelist, offering an interesting adolescent who’s possessed of more than a little of Huck Finn’s pioneer spirit.

A fine exploration of growing up, weathering heartbreak and picking oneself up over and over.

Kirkus Reviews

The Conditions of Love is the debut novel of Dale M. Kushner, a poet and writer in Wisconsin. It moves slowly and gingerly during its opening section when Eunice is a preteen, and it might easily be viewed at the start as a coming-of-age book for a younger set of readers. But by the end of that section, when facts-of-life shocks begin to strike, it turns into a moving, at times jolting, saga.

Kushner’s scenes, like her characters, are expertly sketched, vivid and memorable. . . .  Engrossing to the end, this is a fine first novel.

Kushner deftly captures Eunice in all her awkward years as well as her adult relationship with Fox. The setting—small-town Midwest—means that Eunice remains almost untouched by social and political events of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Instead, the period comes out in the small details…This is a beautifully written book, demanding time and attention.

“In The Conditions of Love Dale Kushner portrays with wonderful empathy a young girl’s journey towards adulthood. Kushner has an amazing sense of character and not only her heroine, the fearless Eunice, but everyone that Eunice encounters comes vividly to life as she struggles first to accommodate herself to her mother’s tumultuous feelings and then to make her own way in the world. An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.”

Margot Livesey, author of MercuryThe Flight of Gemma Hardy and The House on Fortune Street

“Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right–characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!”

Ann Hood, author of An Italian Wife, The Knitting Circle and The Obituary Writer

It’s a tribute to Dale Kushner’s talent that in her debut novel, The Conditions of Love, she can pack so much emotional reality in so few words: maternal narcissism in a sentence, family dysfunction in a paragraph.

With her debut novel, The Conditions of Love, poet Dale M. Kushner has created a layered examination of love in all its forms and how it impacts and shapes one girl in the late 1950s and early 1960s from childhood to maturity.. . .

This is a book that begs to be read slowly. Kushner’s history with poetry serves her well. Her prose causes the reader to slow down and relish the words. She utilizes the five senses throughout the book, which gives the reader a sense of real intimacy with Eunice. She beautifully recounts the physical act of Eunice’s neighbor, Mr. Tabachnik, putting on an opera record, and then she tops it by describing the powerful music washing over a young Eunice.

The Conditions of Love is an engaging story written in a lyrical style. It’s a stunningly self-assured novel for a debut, and it leaves the reader hoping that Kushner will write a second.

Kushner has a divine understanding of the ties that bind people in relationships. The Conditions of Love is rife with truths about man’s equally selfish and selfless need to experience love in its many forms. Eunice might be the central player, but the hero of this tale is Love. Eunice experiences many kinds of loss. Before and after each misadventure she seeks solace in the stable relationships of her past and present: Mr. Tabachnik, a kind neighbor; her adopted guardian, Rose; Sam, a misguided role model. Although she may often be lonely, Eunice does not experience the destitution of abandonment.

Kushner’s writing consists of equal parts reverence for the human condition and sympathy for the pain that is a necessary part of that condition. This novel is an engrossing read and difficult to put down.

“Dale Kushner is a remarkable mix of passion and perception. As a storyteller, she has the ability to let the mysterious force of life show itself through the smallest piece of dirt or doubt. Her depth and experience surface through her writing as a wise companion to help us on our way.”

Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening and As Far As the Heart Can See

“Dale Kushner’s novel The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to young adulthood as she reckons with her parents’ abandonment, her need to break from society’s limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. At an early age Eunice encounters the difficult truths of loss and disappointment, and through an innate sense of her own worth, she perseveres. At once a fable and a realistic portrait of a sensitive and determined young girl, The Conditions of Love is funny, heartbreaking, and gorgeously rendered. In Kushner’s storytelling readers will find the wisdom of an author who has considered both the formidable depths and the transcendent potential of the human spirit.”

Janet Steen, staff writer for The Weeklings

“I’ve already praised Dale Kushner’s novel to so many friends that they keep asking why they can’t find it in the bookstores yet. I would tell you that it’s the next Housekeeping, but that might imply The Conditions of Love is derivative in some way, which it most certainly is not. Kushner’s novel offers what most readers crave—characters about whom we care very, very deeply, emotions conveyed without irony or shame, beautifully lyric prose, a strong sense of place… and wisdom, that very rare thing in a novel – or real life – wisdom. Even in the toughest market, this book is sure to find many loyal and loving readers.”

Eileen Pollack, author of The Perfect LifeThe Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s ClubParadise, New York and Breaking and Entering; Zell Professor and Director of the MFA Program at the University of Michigan

I could not find a single flaw with this book. The characters are all completely unforgettable, but even more importantly, Kushner’s poetic, beautiful talent with words sets this book apart from any other that I have read. This is absolutely a book that I will come back to read again and again. The love of a mother, the love of a father figure, the love of a pet, the love of a friend, and the love of romance — all of these concepts are so beautiful and intricate, and each variation of love takes an ordinary life and makes it nothing short of extraordinary.  Reviewed by Holly Madison of the Luxury Reading Blog