In the Garden of Stone

Susan Tekulve. Hub City (www.hubcity.org), $17.95 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-1-891885-21-1
Tekulve’s debut novel, winner of the South Carolina First Novel Prize, loops around and through the lives of one poor West Virginia family of Italian immigrants from the 1920s into the 1970s. Beginning with Emma Sypher, who marries a railroad worker in her small town of War, the constant here is hard, rural living. When Emma’s husband is killed by a tramp, their 12-year-old son, Dean, is sent to live with his grandparents, working the mines. In time the narrative leaps to Dean’s wife, Sadie, in 1937, and then to their daughter, Hannah, 20 years later, with side characters and scenic overlooks along the way. The book reads less like a novel than a loosely linked collection of short stories, with abrupt shifts in time and point of view that deaden emotional engagement, despite the hardships each character faces. Though the plot offers few footholds and frequent repetitions, descriptions of living off of the land—and the land itself—are in abundant supply. Tekulve (My Mother’s War) takes the long view of family and relationships, giving us snapshots of the landmarks that echo through generations. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/11/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-891885-91-4
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