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Good Books Bells for Eli Review

The Charlotte Observer

Dannye Romine Powell

Review from

The Charlotte

Observer

Spartanburg’s Susan Beckham Zurenda gives us the spring novel, “Bells for Eli” (Mercer, $25), set in fictional Green Branch, S.C., in the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s a tale of first cousins — a boy and a girl — and their devotion and forbidden love. Sandra Conroy calls it “a stunning debut.”

Historical Novel Society

Janice Ottersberg

Review from

Historical Novel

Society

For readers who also grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the way of life and the references to popular culture give a sense of nostalgia. The motif of bells rings throughout the book. The novel is at turns heartwarming and tragic. It moves from quiet and slow-moving to tension and trepidation. Good pacing reveals the events that brought Delia to 1978 and a pivotal point in her life. This novel of an unbreakable bond and genuine love between Delia and Eli is a moving and worthwhile read.

Charleston City Paper

Connelly Hardaway

Review from

Charleston City

Paper

South Carolina author Susan Zurenda's debut novel, Bells for Eli, explores how one small mistake can change the trajectory of a young boy's life. Taking place in a small Southern town during the 1960s and '70s, Bells for Eli follows first cousins Eli and Delia as they explore a love forbidden by social constraints. New York Times-bestselling author (and wife of the late Pat Conroy), Cassandra King Conroy has said of the book: "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."

Tar Heel Reader

Jennifer

Review from

@tarheelreader

Bells for Eli is a coming-of-age story about two fiercely loyal cousins who grow up together. I don’t want to go into the plot too much because there is so much beauty here to explore. Susan Beckham Zurenda’s writing is skillful, so much so you may think you are reading a classic. There’s tragedy for each of the cousins, and hope after the despair. I absolutely adored this emotional book and its authentic, lovable characters, and it was a reading experience I cherished. If you are looking for a beautiful, heartrending book, definitely pick this one up. I’ll be first in line for the next book from this author!

Publisher's Weekly

Review from

digitalpw.com

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

.com

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

.com

[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

paisleymagazine

.com

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

.com

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.

Bookpleasures

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

.com

"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

grandstandmag.com

"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."

Long and Short Reviews

Snapdragon

Review from

longandshortreviews.com

Readers would do well to pick up Bells for Eli. Indeed, I was thrilled to discover that there are still novels that offer such depth of story and strength of character, without any sense of being high-brow.  . . . The gentle power of this novel completely surprised me. It’s a solid 5 star book. Do read.

Living My Best Life Book Reviews

Siobhain Perez

Review from

livingmybestbooklife.wordpress.com

Bells for Eli is a captivating coming of age novel that tackles subjects like bullying, forbidden romance, love, and acceptance.  . . .The story is fascinating in its light and darkness.

Celtic Lady's Reviews

Kathleen Kelly

Review from

celticladyreviews

.com

I became engrossed in the story and became to love both characters. Eli makes the mother in me come out. I wanted to reach out to Eli and protect him from himself. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The author writes a descriptive and engrossing gothic novel that will appeal to anyone who reads it. I highly recommend it!

Sasee Magazine

Interview by Leslie Moore

Review by Nicole McManus

Review from

Sasee Magazine

I was transported back in time with this powerful coming of age novel. I think readers everywhere will be looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

 

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