WOODSTOCK, GA (November 8, 2023) – “This excellent novel gives the reader superb insight into how events at a high school can ripple out to reveal the alliances and divisions within a whole town,” says Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and The Caretaker. “Zurenda’s characters are complex, and their story is deeply moving without veering into sentimentality. Bravo!”
The Girl from the Red Rose Motel
Inspired by author Susan Beckham Zurenda’s experiences teaching in a Spartanburg, South Carolina, public high school and knowledge of homeless students living in motels, The Girl From the Red Rose Motel revolves around two high school students from vastly different backgrounds who improbably fall in love, and with the support of their sympathetic English teacher, attempt to navigate complications readers might never imagine:
Impoverished high school junior Hazel Smalls and affluent senior Sterling Lovell would never ordinarily meet. But when both are punished with in-school suspension, Sterling finds himself drawn to the gorgeous, studious girl seated nearby, and an unlikely relationship begins. Set in 2012 South Carolina, the novel interlaces the stories of Hazel, living with her homeless family in the rundown Red Rose Motel; Sterling, yearning to break free from the expectations of his wealthy parents; and recently widowed Angela Wilmore, their stern but compassionate English teacher.
Hazel hides her homelessness from Sterling until he discovers her cleaning the motel’s office one morning when he goes with his slumlord father to unfreeze the motel’s pipes. With her secret revealed, their relationship deepens. Angela, who has her own struggles in a budding romance with the divorced principal, offers Hazel the support her family can’t provide. Navigating between privilege and poverty, vulnerability and strength, all three must confront what they need from themselves and each other as Hazel gains the courage to oppose boundaries and make a bold, life-changing decision at novel’s end.
Gripping and richly drawn, The Girl from the Red Rose Motel explores the complex bonds between adults and teenagers and the power of the families we both inherit and create. Inspired by the author’s experiences teaching in a South Carolina high school, the novel is also an unflinching, authentic look at the challenges faced by America’s public school teachers and the struggles of thousands of homeless children in motels who live, precariously and almost invisibly, amid the nation’s most affluent communities.
About the Author
Susan Beckham Zurenda taught English for thirty-three years to college and high school students. Her debut novel, Bells for Eli, received several awards including first place for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards, plus 2020 Foreword Indie Best Book Awards, Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, American Book Fest’s Best Books of 2020, and Shelf Unbound 2020 Notable Indie. Zurenda has also published and won numerous awards for her short fiction. A life-long South Carolinian, she lives in Spartanburg. Learn more about her at SusanZurenda.com.
FoxTale Book Shoppe Visit
The Girl from the Red Rose Motel author Susan Beckham Zurenda will appear at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Downtown Woodstock on Sunday, December 10, alongside current Georgia Author of the Year Robert Gwaltney and 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Ann Hite.
Books by all three authors will be available for purchase at the event. Light refreshments will be served. The event begins at 2:00 p.m. and is free to attend.
Advance Praise for The Girl from the Red Rose Motel
“In this beautifully written novel, a recently widowed English teacher takes a new job at a local high school, and we become deeply immersed in a world of privileged and poor students, parents who try to censor lessons, and considerable classroom challenges. The Girl from the Red Rose Motel is an authentic portrayal of life in a high school and beyond, as a young couple in love seeks their teacher’s support amid a surfeit of obstacles. This emotionally complex story is impossible to put down.” —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea
“Susan Zurenda writes with authority, heart, and warmth about the connections we make, the impact of social and moral issues on individuals from all walks of life, and how love often comes to us when we least expect it. The Girl from the Red Rose Motel reveals humanity at its best and worst in this engaging, skillfully crafted story of hope, compassion, and resilience.” —Donna Everhart, author of The Saints of Swallow Hill
“Utterly absorbing! Readers will root for plucky young Zell, and book clubs will have a lively discussion with the surprise ending.” —Dianna Rostad, USA Today bestselling author of You Belong Here Now
“Compelling, timely, and full of heart, The Girl from the Red Rose Motel expertly weaves the stories of a concerned English teacher and two of her students—one living in a rundown motel and the other in a mansion—whose irrepressible love triumphs over social differences of status and wealth. You don’t want to miss this splendid Southern novel and its astonishing conclusion.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of The House on Prytania
“This excellent novel gives the reader superb insight into how events at a high school can ripple out to reveal the alliances and divisions within a whole town. Zurenda’s characters are complex, and their story is deeply moving without veering into sentimentality. Bravo!” —Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and The Caretaker
Mercer University Press
Mercer University Press, established in 1979, has published more than 1,700 books in the genres of Southern Studies, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Poetry, History, Civil War History, African American Studies, Appalachian Studies, Religion, Biblical Studies, and Philosophy. Publishing authors from across the United States and abroad, Mercer University Press focuses on topics related to the culture of the South. The reputation of the Press significantly enhances the academic environment of Mercer University and carries the name of Mercer and Macon, Georgia, throughout the world.
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