Authors on the Air welcomes Southern novelist Susa Zurenda to the studio to discuss BELLS FOR ELI. Susan Beckham Zurenda taught English for thirty-three years and now works as a book publicist for Magic Time Literary Publicity. A recipient of several regional awards for her fiction, including The South Carolina Fiction Project, The Porter Fleming Literary Competition, and The Southern Writers Symposium, she has also published numerous stories and nonfiction pieces in literary journals. Writing and the love of literature have been central in her life since early childhood, perhaps beginning when her father read poetry to her and her brother at bedtime.
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 hides 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.