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Bells for Eli delivers a haunting coming-of-age narrative, a destroyed Southern childhood, forbidden love, and a tragic twist. Think of a Tennessee Williams story that takes place in the ’60s and ’70s.

Jeannie Ralston


“Bells for Eli” is an impressive debut novel. One might think the story of life in a small Southern town had been sufficiently covered, but Zurenda is a compelling storyteller and has in fact given it a surprising new twist. 

Don Noble

Tuscaloosa News

"Zurenda’s book calls up memories of the unmoored adolescents of Carson McCullers in The Heart is a Lonely Hunterand and The Member of the Wedding and the youngsters in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird."

Dr. Steven Whitton

The Anniston Star

on Bells for Eli

"[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."

Philip K. Jason

Southern Literary Review

“Zurenda 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.”

Jackie K. Cooper

Book Reviews by Jackie K. Cooper

“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.” 

Publisher's Weekly

Publisher's Weekly

“This is a complicated love story in which, despite everything, the readers root for Eli and Delia.” 

Lacey Lyons

Southern Review of Books

In “Bells For Eli,” [Zurenda] delivers a poignant, unforgettable coming-of-age story and what should be a serious contender for best debut novel.   

Glenda Harris

Bluffton Sun

Zurenda’s emphasis on the power of words — to both hurt and heal — is poignantly portrayed in Bells for Eli.   

Tina Chambers

Chapter 16 (Humanities Tennessee)

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