Join Spartanburg author Susan Beckham Zurenda for a virtual author discussion of her debut novel Bells for Eli!
After teaching literature, composition, and creative writing to thousands of high school and college students for 33 years, Susan turned her attention to putting a novel in her heart on paper, the genesis of which started with a short story that won a fiction prize some years ago.
She was delighted to present her debut novel, Bells for Eli, to readers on March 2, 2020. During her years of teaching at Spartanburg Community College and then as an AP English teacher at Spartanburg High School, Susan published short stories and 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, and The Jubilee Writing Competition (twice). Since 2018, she has published six stories in literary magazines.
"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. "
In this tender, beautifully-rendered novel, the powerful connection between cousins Delia and Eli takes them on a journey fraught with longing, desire, and heartbreak. Through loss, Delia comes to understand that the bonds of love can never truly be broken.
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.