May 2021 Book Program
Time & Location
About The Event
About the Author
Susan Beckham Zurenda has an English teacher's feel for literature, composition, and creative writing, having taught these subjects for more than thirty years. Holding undergraduate and graduate degrees from Converse College, she is an experienced writer of prize-winning short fiction. Now Susan is a book publicist, managing media relations for Magic Time Literary Publicity, a career she took on after retirement. Susan's work in the world of published authors prompted her to develop a story that had been close to her heart for a long time. Inspired by the memory of a tragic family accident, she wrote her first novel. Bells for Eli debuted in March 2020, the same time the pandemic arrived, unfortunately curtailing Susan's own publicity tours. Susan Beckham Zurenda lives in Spartanburg, S.C. with her husband Wayne. She has two daughters who live with their families in the coastal area of the state, and she is enormously proud of her four young grandchildren.
About the Book
Bells for Eli is set in the 1960s and '70sin the fictional town of Green Branch, South Carolina, which is named for the family of Adeline "Delia" Green, the first person narrator of the novel. Green Branch is a place where kindred matters. The university press has published a history tracing the blood connections of its founding families back to the early 1800s, and the local historian can recite them at will.
Delia's story begins when the little girl sees her cousin Eli being rushed away just before his third birthday party. He had drunk from a Coca-Cola bottle containing chemicals his father was using to blow up balloons for him. Excruciating pain and physical disfigurement warp Eli's early social development with other boys and his relationship with his father. Eli's isolation as he slowly heals creates an unbreakable childhood bond with Delia. As they mature, Eli emerges as handsome and reckless. The cousins' bond deepens into feelings that violate family mores, even as the decades of the '60s and '70s are stripping away innocence on many levels, with changing times and dwindling family lines.
Bells for Eli has a true feel for its time period and a strong sense of place. Susan Beckham Zurenda's atmospheric descriptions of Magnolia Manor -- the hereditary home of the genteel matriarch, Mimi -- are based on memories of her great-grandparents’ antebellum home on the outskirts of Lancaster, SC. Her novel has received high praise from such notable Southern authors as Cassandra King Conroy, Jill McCorkle, Ann Hite, and Mary Alice Monroe. The book has been named a SIBA Okra Pick, a Notable Indie, an American BookFest Finalist, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. It has been recommended to readers by numerous regional publications.
Kristina McMorris, best-selling novelist and a recent WAT speaker, says: "Zurenda’s skillful writing and depth of characters swiftly pulled me into this unique story and didn’t let go until its heartrending final pages."
"Insightful and assured, Zurenda’s haunting coming-of-age story should appeal to fans of nuanced and atmospheric Southern fiction."
Publishers Weekly https://www.publishersweekly.com/9780881467376
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