On Tuesday, March 15, South Carolina author Susan Beckham Zurenda will give a talk at the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage, discussing historical fiction and the small-town South in the 1960s, with a focus on her award-winning novel Bells for Eli.

The Gold Medal (first place) winner in the 2021 IPPY Awards for Best First Book—Fiction, a finalist in the 2020 Foreword Indie Best Book Awards, Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, finalist in American Book Fest’s Best Books of 2020, and Shelf Unbound 2020 Notable Indie, Bells for Eli is inspired by a real-life first cousin’s tragic childhood accident in the late 1950’s. The novel explores how one misstep changes the trajectory of a young boy’s life and creates immense conflict in the lives of those around him in a time and place of supposed innocence in the small-town South of the 60’s and 70’s.

Bells for Eli is a distinctive Coming of Age story in which first cousins Ellison Winfield (Eli) and Adeline Green (Delia), living across the street from each other and born of parents from different social strata, grow extraordinarily close in childhood, in large part because of Eli’s accident. As Eli encounters the bullying and shunning by schoolmates who don’t understand and mock his disfigurement and frailty, achieving acceptance is torturous not only for Eli but for Delia who becomes her cousin’s protector.

In adolescence, Eli appears normal on the outside – a heartbreaker with a double standard – as he guards Delia’s vulnerability when she ventures into a destructive romantic relationship. Determined as Eli is to rescue his beloved cousin, Delia is equally committed to saving Eli when he falls into the wrong crowd enamored with drugs. Eli and Delia’s relationship grows into an incomparable love, blossoming into an intimacy that cannot be, for they know to love one’s cousin is taboo. The novel concludes with Delia’s discovery of a shocking secret that reveals truths about Eli she has never known.

Susan Beckham Zurenda will give her talk from 5 – 6 pm at the Morris Center, 10782 S. Jacob Smart Blvd in Ridgeland. For more information, call 843-284-9227 or visit www.morrisheritagecenter.org