Excerpt from In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

In the Garden of Stone

by Susan Tekulve

In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve X
In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Apr 2013, 250 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Reaching the mountain's flank, she found a ridge steep enough to lean against and rested. Her chest throbbed, and her back still ached, but she knew better than to go home to her mother emptyhanded. The spraggers might not get their fill of stolen coal for hours, so she decided to fetch the priest's laundry while she waited. Raised a staunch Methodist, Emma's mother became a staunch Catholic when she married an Italian, and she often vied with the Polish and Italian wives for the privilege of taking in the priest's wash for free. Emma reasoned that the sight of the priest's coveted laundry would cheer her mother more than clean water from the pump.

The ridge's uphill path led through the church cemetery. Traveled only by widows and old miners, it smelled of laurel and decay, but it was safe. Sundays, when her father wasn't too tired for church, he walked this path with Emma and her mother, reciting names of shrubs and flowers that made them laugh—dog-hobble, toothwort, Dutchman's britches. In the middle of the graveyard, Emma rested beneath the old maple that grew into a hemlock. On one side of the entwined trees, blank plaques slid down the hillside, marking the graves of miners trapped and killed in a shaft fire, their anonymous bodies washed out of the mountain with fire hoses. Emma wandered down the other side of the slope, where tall tombstones were dug right out of a coal seam, etched with words in Italian, Polish, and Cyrillic. Here she found the small sarcophagus, the picture of a toddler brother who died in the pandemic before Emma was born, sealed beneath oval glass. They didn't have a photo of him when he died, so the women of the family had leaned his coffin against a coal seam, opened its lid and posed with his body. The brother's eyes were closed, one hand hanging from the open coffin, as though he'd fallen there exhausted by play. Emma's blond mother stood behind the coffin, flanked by her dark aunt and her grandmother, glaring straight ahead.

In early May, her living brothers, Michael, Carlo, and August, had followed the young priest from the white church through the cemetery, carrying the statue of the Virgin Mary on their backs. Wearing a thin, white robe, the priest swung a gold ball of incense from a chain while the statue teetered on their shoulders. Emma and her mother followed her brothers, singing, Mary, full of grace. Purest of our race. Spring frost thickened her breath as she circled the graves, her feet sinking through the soft snow, her heels hitting hard against the frozen coal seam.

Raised in a saint-haunted country, her father said the saints' stories were fairy tales for grandmothers and children. He believed only his own legends of how he came to America and met his American wife. On mornings that Emma fainted from the fast in church, he took her outside to sit on the steps, telling how he fell in love with her mother. Fresh from Palermo, he'd spoken no English, so the company put him in Emma's mother's second grade class with the eight-year-olds. Whenever his young classmates became unruly, Emma's mother would say, "Massimo, please stand," and her dark father would stand silently, in awe of her mother's blond hair and blue eyes, her proper manners and command of English, his height ending the unruliness of school children.

"She was a lady," he said. "She was so beautiful I could only look at her."

Her father always told Emma she favored her mother, but she knew better. Wide-shouldered and thick-waisted, she was built like a farmhand. Her face was round, even when she stood before the mirror beside the coal stove and sucked in her breath, searching for her mother's high cheekbones in her own face. She pulled her lank, brown hair into a braid that hung to her waist. She'd inherited only her mother's schoolteacher vocabulary and the habit of saying going to instead of gonna, which proved such a constant source of ridicule and amusement for her schoolmates that she stopped talking proper and dropped out to help her mother with the housework.

Excerpted from In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve. Copyright © 2013 by Susan Tekulve. Excerpted by permission of Hub City Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  West Virginia Coal Mining

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Death of No Importance
    A Death of No Importance
    by Mariah Fredericks
    Bringing the reader deep into the intrigue and privilege of the most elite boudoirs, A Death of No ...
  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

    A riveting story of survival, and the power of stories to save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!


Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.