The Mountains Branch Library in Lake Lure presents author Susan Beckham Zurenda at a Books and Bites luncheon on Wednesday, August 5, at Lake Lure Inn. Events begin with a meet-and-greet at 11 a.m., followed by an author’s talk, “The Small-town South in the ‘60s,” and lunch. Zurenda is the author of Bells for Eli, a novel selected as a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
Bells for Eli is a coming-of-age story about cousins Eli and Delia, who become close after a tragic childhood accident affects Eli’s life irrevocably and causes Delia to take on the role of his protector. Zurenda, a native of Lancaster, SC, and resident of Spartanburg, SC, borrowed places familiar to her—her great-grandparents’ home, a clock in Winnsboro, SC, and Converse and Wofford colleges—for the book’s settings. “I wanted to explore how a traumatic childhood accident such as Eli’s has a tremendous effect not only on Eli’s destiny but also deeply affects the lives of those around him,” Zurenda says. Eli’s accident is based on that of a young cousin of Zurenda’s, who drank lye when he was two years old. “Like Eli in the novel, my cousin survived the accident, but his life was changed forever,” she says.
The discovery of Southern literature in an elective course led Zurenda to major in English and to go on to teach literature for 33 years. She taught works by many fine Southern writers, she says, “not just because they are Southern, but because of the tremendous impressions their stories create. They show us the truth: the good, the bad and the ugly of who we are.”
The publication of Bells for Eli coincided with shut-downs due to COVID-19. “Since then, like other authors caught in the pandemic, I have reached out to readers through social media, virtual events and word of mouth,” Zurenda says.
To learn more, visit SusanZurenda.com, where there is a link to purchase Bells for Eli. The book is also available at Malaprops Bookstore and Café. Register for the luncheon by visiting Mountains Branch Library (150 Bills Creek Road) in Lake Lure Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by calling 828.287.6392. The luncheon will be held outdoors under a covered terrace and the number of participants will be limited in keeping with social distancing guidelines.