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Publisher's Weekly

Marly Rusoff

Review from


The novel’s sensitive but grounded voice seamlessly integrates Gothic elements, the cousins’ emotional arcs, and the shifting cultural landscape. Insightful and assured, Zurenda’s haunting coming-of-age story should appeal to fans of nuanced and atmospheric Southern fiction.

Book Reviews by Jackie K. Cooper

Jackie K. Cooper

Review from jackiekcooper.com

There is hardly anything I enjoy more than discovering a truly uniquely talented author. So you can imagine my excitement in discovering Susan Beckham Zurenda. She is a brilliant writer and to make it even better a brilliant southern writer. . . . For me reading this story was like going home. I knew this town, knew these people, knew this world. Zurenda spoke to me in a way few authors have in the past.  . . . .Mark down her name – Susan Beckham Zurenda. You are going to hear a lot more from her and about her

Gasparilla Magazine

Jonathan Herbert 

Review from magazinevolume


Bells For Eli is a triumphant debut brimming with captivating characters and Southern charm. Author Susan Beckham Zurenda writes powerful and clear prose that pulls the reader inside small-town South Carolina, fifty plus years ago, and tells the story of Adeline Green and her coming of age experiences with friendship, love and the powerful bond she has with her cousin, Eli. Zurenda’s ability to create a truly authentic and vivid backdrop to such a heart-felt story is something readers will enjoy on every page

Southern Literary Review

Philip K. Jason 

Review from southernlitreview


[Bells for Eli] is deeply moving, troubling, and gloriously poetic. It brings to life small town South Carolina during the 1960s and 70s in a gorgeous and profound tale of the heart’s competing destinies. . . Zurenda knows her characters well and shares her understanding with harrowing honesty. . . . A terrific multi-generational tale.

Paisley Magazine

Meredith M. Deal

Review from



I was immediately transported back in time to the significant cultural challenges of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and how many survived those times, and some did not. And I could feel the heat as Zurenda described a small-town South Carolina summer with no air-conditioning and dusty front porches. . . . .Delia brought her story alive, just for me

Deep South Magazine

Michaella McKenzie

Review from deepsouthmag.com

Bells For Eli was chosen as one of 11 spring 2020 reading picks.

It’s only in our weakest moments that we find out what strengths we have, and in Eli and Delila’s tale, family and loyalty are the motivation to persevere and overcome major obstacles.

Book Loons

Rheta Van Winkle

Review from bookloons.com

Zurenda's book is well-written, with believable, sympathetic characters, . . . a faithful representation of recent history in our society that kept me interested and engaged in Bells for Eli from beginning to end.

Ft. Myers Magazine

Carol J. DeFrank

Review from ftmyersmagazine


MOST FIRST TIME AUTHORS are happy just to get published. Not many find themselves Okra Picks, featured author at Publishers Weekly, or receiving advance accolades from The New York Times best selling authors. Susan Beckham Zurenda, author of Bells For Eli (MERCER UNIVERSITY PRESS) is the exception... Zurenda's future now looks bright.


Wally Wood

Review from bookpleasures.com

Bells for Eli is, indeed, as one early reader says, "a memorable, atmospheric novel of love, friendship, and bonds that surpass all reason." I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't. 

Author 2 Author Podcast

Bill Kenower

Podcast from blogtalkradio.com

Bill welcomes debut novelist Susan Zurenda to the show. 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 and Bells for Eli was published on March 2!

Southern Literary Review

Philip K. Jason

Review from southernlitreview


"Coming of age narratives, particularly about young women, have long been a staple in the literature of the American South. Zurenda’s marvelous book is a major achievement in this genre. It is deeply moving, troubling, and gloriously poetic. It brings to life small town South Carolina during the 1960s and 70s in a gorgeous and profound tale of the heart’s competing destinies."

Chapter 16, Humanities Tennessee

Tina Chambers

Review from chapter16.org

“From time to time, Mama proclaimed I ruminated too much,” says Delia Green, the narrator of Susan Beckham Zurenda’s debut novel, Bells for Eli. What Delia mostly ruminates about is her close relationship with her cousin Eli, whose family lives across the street in the small town of Green Branch, South Carolina. The two cousins’ worlds are changed forever in 1959 when Eli accidentally swallows lye on the day before his third birthday."

GrandStand Magazine

Julie Flanagan

Review from


"If you’re looking for titles to add to your spring reading list, Bells for Eli, the debut novel by Susan Zurenda, should definitely be at the top. Set in the small town of Green Branch, South Carolina, in the 1960s and ’70s, the story focuses on first cousins Ellison (Eli) Winfield and Adeline (Delia) Green. The two are deeply bound not just by blood, but by an accident that changes life as they know it."