- Paperback: 250 pages
- Publisher: Hub City Press (April 30, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1891885219
- ISBN-13: 978-1891885211
This book is also available as an e-book.
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
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. In Susan Tekulve’s new novel, 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. 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.
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 fast, 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.
My take on this book:
Emma grew up in the coal town of War, WV. A way of life where coal dust was a part of everything, and a hard scrabble living was just the way of things. She had been cooking and cleaning since she was seven years old. When she is awoken one night to the sound of men's voices digging the family out from under the coal that dumped onto their house after a coal car tipped onto their house. Caleb Sypher was the man who helped Emma,and a week later he asks Emma to marry him. Promising her a house and 47 acres above a valley called God's Thumbprint in Virginia. Emma was only sixteen.Time goes by and soon Emma is 29 and a mother to their son Dean. She embraces happiness, but can't help but wonder about Caleb's first wife whom he married while at war. When the war was over though he came back to the states alone. As the seasons of their lives change so does the structure of family,but in the end it's family ties that mean the most.
I have lived in WV my entire life, and know first hand the beauty of the state, and Susan Tekulve captures it wonderfully within the pages of "In The Garden Of Stone." She brings to life the hills and hollers, and the importance that coal played in our state. Her descriptions of the coal dust, and the company house reminds me of stories that I have heard from my elders. To say I loved the setting is an understatement, but it's ultimately the characters that made the story for me. The author brings each of them to life, giving them a unique voice, sometimes their stories are happy, other times sad, for me that's what makes them so realistic. Emma's character especially touched me, it was interesting to see her grow and change as the story progresses. If you enjoy a story where the characters find their way into your heart and stay long after you read the final page then this book is for you, or perhaps you enjoy a story that will capture your imagination taking you back to a simpler time,that deals with love and loss, and the meaning of family.
About Susan Tekulve
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. Her story collection, My Mother’s War Stories, received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize. Author of Savage Pilgrims, a story collection (Serving House Books, 2009), she has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Scholarship and teaches writing at Converse College.
For more information about In the Garden of Stone, please visit the publisher’s website HERE.