About Bells for Eli

Bells for Eli is Adeline (Delia) Green’s first person narrative of her relationship with her first cousin Ellison (Eli) Winfield throughout their childhood into their young adult lives. The novel opens in 1978 in Green Branch, SC, with Delia appearing inert from an unknown sorrow. The story then flashes back to 1959 when Eli drinks Red Devil Lye, the chemical his father used to blow up balloons for Eli’s third birthday celebration and negligently left in a Coca-Cola bottle. Eli’s accident changes the trajectory of both his and Delia’s lives as he emerges, physically and psychologically, a severely damaged boy.

     In part because of Eli’s accident, the cousins grow unusually close during the 1960’s and 70’s, against the backdrop of small-town South Carolina.  They live across the street from each other, and though Eli’s mother is of landed aristocracy and Delia is the child of first generation college parents, social boundaries do not exist between them.  An only child influenced by a doting mother and alcoholic father, Eli struggles mightily toward adolescence.  He encounters bullying and shunning by schoolmates who don’t understand and mock his disfigurement and frailty.  Achieving acceptance is torturous not only for Eli but for Delia who is her cousin’s protector.

     Later—his tubes and trach gone—Eli appears normal as he bolts into adolescence, a heartbreaker with a double standard, guarding Delia’s vulnerability when she ventures into a destructive romantic relationship. Determined as Eli is to rescue his beloved cousin from her boyfriend’s ulterior motives, Delia is equally committed to saving Eli when he falls into the wrong crowd enamored with drugs.  Eli’s accident changes the typical relationship he and Delia might have had.  Instead, it grows into an incomparable love, blossoming into an intimacy that cannot be, for they know to love one’s cousin in that way is taboo. The novel concludes with Delia’s discovery of a shocking secret that reveals truths about Eli she has never known.

Amanda Vining photo

Amanda holds a BS in Biology from Georgia College & State University. She began her career as an educator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. After leaving the DNR, Amanda became a formal educator with Baldwin County School System and Jasper County School System. Amanda began her museum career at the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MAS) in Macon, Georgia, where she served as Curator of Environmental Science
(2011-2020). While at MAS, Amanda developed a love for sharing the world around us with the many students who visited on school field trips. During her time as Curator of Environmental Science, Amanda launched a storytime
program for preschool children.

Since 2020, Amanda has been serving Georgia Writers Museum as a volunteer on the Education Committee. Amanda has brought her love of sharing stories with students by launching Peaches’ Reading Pasture. As Museum Manager, Amanda looks forward to serving the community and helping to inspire those within our community to put words to paper and share their stories.

Amanda was born and raised in nearby Shady Dale, Georgia. Her husband, Rodney, is a native of Eatonton, and they currently reside in Putnam County. They have three children.