In the Garden of Stone
Hub City Press
5½ x 8½
May 1, 2013
Shortly before daybreak in War, West Virginia, a passing train derails and spills an avalanche of coal over 16-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 awakens 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. Caleb delivers her from the gritty coal camp to 34 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 the 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.
- South Carolina First Novel Prize
- 2014 IPPY Award Gold Regional Fiction: South
“ ‘You ever want to be somebody else?’ Herein the soft, slow, cool story of human raveling and unraveling. There is always a quiet peace that descends when I read Susan Tekulve. These still waters, they run mighty deep.” ―Robert Olmstead, author of The Coldest Night
“Prepare yourself for the pleasures of a story well written, well told. Prepare for the simple redolent pleasures of fresh-baked bread and for heartbreak, too, and the fevered tragic crimes of and from poverty. Prepare also to witness the sympathetic yearning that rises from the solitary heart for the pleasures and sorrows of life, reaching out of the stone of art to be sculpted. This is a beautifully sculpted novel of fully realized characters whose story will grip you from start to finish.” ―Thomas E. Kennedy, author of Falling Sideways and In the Company of Angels
“In the Garden of Stone is a beautifully written saga telling the story of successive generations of a West Virginia family living out their lives in one particular spot of earth. There’s a remarkable sensitivity to the mystery of how place affects human souls, and the descriptions of the land are masterful. This is a writer who definitely has what it takes to make a real contribution to Southern literature.” —Josephine Humphreys, author of Nowhere Else on Earth