TLC Book Tour Review of “In the Garden of Stone” by Susan Tekulve

Note: This book is reviewed as part of TLC Tours.

This is a saga that begins in 1924 in an impoverished immigrant coal-mining community in West Virginia and continues up to 1973. In each chapter the perspective changes from among the major characters, beginning with Emma when she is 16, and ending with her granddaughter Hannah at age 28.


Throughout the years we don’t get much of a view of the interior lives of these characters except for the recurring sorrow, mourning, and longing for escape that hangs over their bleak lives. The pervasive poverty and oppression of their surroundings wraps the story in a bleak cloud of melancholy.

Depressing? Yes.

Worthwhile? The writing shows the kind of skill you often see coming out of writing workshops, but it kept my emotional engagement on the surface. I was more involved in the oppressive setting than the characters themselves.

Overall Quality? This book reads to me like a series of closely connected short stories. That’s because some of the chapters, taking place as they do after gaps of several years, begin with a great deal of repetition. I could see this being the case if these chapters had been serialized in a journal or magazine, and in fact, in an afterword, the author acknowledges this is precisely what happened. But in book form, the repetitive sections should have been edited out.

Evaluation: Recommended mainly for those who have more of an appreciation for grim and somber stories about the immigrant experience.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by Hub City Press, 2013


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12 Responses to TLC Book Tour Review of “In the Garden of Stone” by Susan Tekulve

  1. The story sounds pretty good, but not sure I could do “depressing” right now:( Hope your week is going well Jill.

  2. Depressing..grim…perhaps not.

  3. I fell in love with this collection but there was a lot of personal resonance for me; however, I agree with you about the repetition — the stories did feel very discrete and separate. In the end, it worked for me but I can see how it might not for some folks. I appreciate your honest thoughts!

  4. Darlenelene says:

    I really like immigrant stories but I’m not at all fond of books that seem more like short interconnected stories. I find that you just can’t relate to characters or the story that way.

  5. My husband’s family were coal miners in WV. They all lived depressingly short lives. :/

  6. Trish says:

    Eeeeee. I tend to like stories that are a little on the darker side but this sounds downright bleak. I sometimes enjoy books where the chapters feel more like vignettes than a cohesive story but it does take a crafty author to pull it off successfully.

  7. Darn, I’m sorry that this one didn’t turn out to be a favorite for you, but thanks for being a part of the tour.

  8. I do like immigrant stories and grim usually doesn’t bother me so I’ll probably give this one a try.

  9. aartichapati says:

    I have been TOTALLY lapse in my blog visiting recently, so I just wanted to say HI and that I have not forgotten you and I hope you do not feel unloved by me. Though this book interests me not at all 😉

  10. 2.5 tells me to move on! thanks for reading this one and telling us about it!

  11. bookingmama says:

    Hmmmm…. I’m drawn to immigrant stories and especially ones about coal mining towns. Guess I’ll stick with Jennifer Haigh.

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    Definitely not for me.

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