260 pages, 5.5 x 8.5
Publication Date: Apr-2013
"Tekulve's descriptions of the hard, cold, dirty coal camp life, above and below ground, are masterful ... (Her) great gift is to live in the hearts of her characters ... Lyrical, haunting fiction." --Kirkus, starred review
Shortly before daybreak in War, West Virginia, a passing train derails and spills an avalanche of coal over sixteen-year-old Emma Palmisano’s house, trapping her sleeping family inside. The year is 1924, and the remote mines of Appalachia have filled with families like Emma’s—poor, immigrant laborers building new lives half a world away from the island of Sicily. Emma awakes in total darkness, to the voice of a railroad man, Caleb Sypher, who is digging her out from the suffocating coal. From his pocket he removes two spotless handkerchiefs and tenderly cleans Emma’s bare feet. Though she knows little else about this railroad man, Emma marries him a week later, and Caleb delivers her from the gritty coal camp to thirty-four acres of pristine Virginia mountain farmland.
Winner of the South Carolina First Novel Prize in 2012, In the Garden of Stone is a multi-generational tale about the nature of power and pride, love and loss, and how one impoverished family endures estrangement from their land and each other in order to unearth the rich seams of forgiveness. Emma gives birth to a son, Dean, but the family’s life is shattered by a hobo’s bullet at the railroad station; the boy grows up early, becoming a remote man with fierce and unpredictable loyalties. Dean’s daughter, Hannah, forsakes her heritage and wanders far from home, in the end reconnecting with the Sypher family in the wildest place of all, the human heart. Bleak, harrowing, and beautifully told, In the Garden of Stone, is a haunting saga of endurance and redemption.
Susan Tekulve’s nonfiction, short stories and essays have appeared in journals such as Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, The Georgia Review, Connecticut Review, and Shenandoah. She is the author of two story collections, My Mother’s War Stories, which received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize, and Savage Pilgrims, (Serving House Books, 2009). Susan has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and teaches writing at Converse College. (Susan Tekulve photo by Greg Beckner)