In the Garden of Stone
By Susan Tekulve
(Hub City Press, Paperback, 9781891885211, April 2013, 250pp.)
The Short of It:
Full of sorrowful, memorable characters with writing that immediately pulls you in.
The Rest of It:
The story begins in War, West Virginia and spans from 1924 to the 70’s. After a rail accident buries her home in coal, sixteen-year-old Emma is rescued by a railroad man by the name of Caleb. Shortly thereafter, the two marry and begin their life together. Caleb is a good man but prone to dreaming and when he dreams up a garden to rival that of any found in Sicily, Emma has her doubts but she goes along with it. When tragedy strikes and Emma is left to fend for herself, what we are given is only a brief glimpse of what is to come. Told in alternating chapters and ending with Emma’s granddaughter, Hannah, this is a family saga that began strong but left me wanting more.
Emma’s story was the most appealing to me. I wanted to know more about her and Caleb but when it jumped to her son Dean as an adult, I began to lose interest. Dean was not likable and his marriage to Sadie and her eventual decline in health, made me not like him even more. And when the story ended with Hannah, his daughter, I found myself even less interested. From the strong beginning, I had high hopes for this one. In the end, I enjoyed the book but not as much as I had hoped.
Had this story stuck with Emma and Caleb I think I would have liked it more. The dreamy, fantastical part of Caleb was particularly interesting against Emma’s more sensible nature. What these characters all share is a sense of longing. The type that can never be fulfilled. They seem to struggle with happiness. Both what it is and how to achieve it. Flawed as they are, the story doesn’t dwell long enough on any one aspect of their unhappiness so it steers clear of the depression you’d expect to find in a book like this. If I were to take the story out of the equation, I’d say that the writing was lovely. Lovely, without being over-the-top. The imagery and the voice of the characters came through enough for me to want to finish the book and I would absolutely read another book by Tekulve.
If you are intrigued by anything I’ve said here and want to read it for yourself, enter to win your own copy. Details below.
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This giveaway is for one copy of In the Garden of Stone and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on June 14, 2013 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.