“A stunning debut, Bells for Eli establishes Susan Beckham Zurenda as one of the most exciting new voices in Southern fiction,” says Cassandra King Conroy, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of five novels and the memoir Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy. First cousins Ellison (Eli) Winfield and Adeline (Delia) Green are meant to grow up happily and innocently across the street from one another amid the supposed wholesome values of small-town Green Branch, South Carolina, in the 1960s and 70s. But Eli’s tragic accident changes the trajectory of their lives and of those connected to them. Shunned and even tortured by his peers for his disfigurement and frailty, Eli struggles for acceptance in childhood as Delia passionately devotes herself to defending him. Delia’s vivid and compassionate narrative voice presents Eli as a confident young man in adolescence—the visible damage to his body gone—but underneath hide indelible wounds harboring pain and insecurity, scars that rule his impulses. And while Eli cherishes Delia more than anyone and attempts to protect her from her own troubles, he cares not for protecting himself. It is Delia who has that responsibility, growing more challenging each year. Bells for Eli is a lyrical and tender exploration of the relationship between cousins drawn together through tragedy in a love forbidden by social constraints and a family whose secrets must stay hidden. Susan Beckham Zurenda masterfully transports readers into a small Southern town where quiet, ordinary life becomes extraordinary. In this compelling coming of age story, culture, family, friends, bullies, and lovers propel two young people to unite to guard each other in a world where love, hope, and connectedness ultimately triumph.
Meet the Author
After teaching literature, composition, and creative writing to thousands of high school and college students for 33 years, Susan Beckham Zurenda turned her attention to putting a novel in her heart on paper, the genesis of which was a short story that won the South Carolina Fiction Prize a number of years ago. Her debut novel, Bells for Eli (Mercer University Press, March 2020), was selected as a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, is a 2020 Notable Indie on Shelf Unbound, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. Susan taught English for 33 years on the college level and at the high school level to AP students. She has won numerous regional awards such as the South Carolina Fiction Prize (twice), the Porter Fleming Competition, The Southern Writers Symposium Emerging Writers Fiction Contest, The Hub City Hardegree Contest in Fiction, Alabama Conclave First Novel Chapter Contest, The Jubilee Writing Competition, and has been published in numerous literary journals. Susan received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and now works as a book publicist assisting media relations for Magic Time Literary Publicity. She lives in South Carolina with her husband Wayne and two Boston Terriers.