Little, Brown; Feb 2002; 23.95, 352 pp.
In 1972, ten years old Eli Wade and his family enter Burnt Stand, North Carolina by pushing their broken down car into town. Though three years younger than Eli, Darleen Union, heir to the Hardigree Marble Company that owns the town, knows they belong together. They become friends until someone murders Darleen's Aunt Clara. Though the case is not solved, everyone blames Eli's dad forcing the Wades to leave town.
Twenty-five years later Darl, a defense attorney for the downtrodden, and Eli, a very successful reformed gambler, meet again in her hometown. Though still in love, but adult style, Clara's murder keeps Darl and Eli from a permanent relationship. In front of him, she digs up her aunt's grave that she helped dug twenty-five years ago so that Eli can learn the truth.
STONE FLOWER GARDEN is filled with twists and turns so that each time the audience feels they grasp the tale, a new angle appears. This gives the story line extra oomph so that the reader has more than just a steamy southern romance. Though the era seems wrong to contain the southern dynasties that ruled one-company towns, the charm and angst of the lead characters manage to overcome that counter-anachronism. Deborah Smith provides her audience with a four-tissue box tearjerker that never eases off the high emotional tension of the plot until the climax.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner