Darl Union was born and raised in Burnt Stand, North Carolina. She was orphaned at an early age and raised by her grandmother, Swan Hardigree. The family and their marble company have defined the town for generations. Though the unique pink marble provides luxury, it also acts as a prison for 7 year-old Darl.
Everything changes when the Wade family comes to town looking for employment. From the moment Darl sets eyes on 10 year-old Eli, she knows they're meant to be together. However, she's too young to understand the secret behind the Wade family's sudden arrival and their relation to the Hardigrees.
The Wades settle in nicely. Eli and Darl spend the next three years as friends and childhood sweethearts. Their happiest memories are created in the Stone Flower Garden between their houses.
The sudden arrival of Swan's sister and her shocking announcement unlock terrible secrets of the past. These revelations have a heartbreaking impact on the characters. The tragedy that unfolds takes Eli away from Burnt Stand. Darl is witness to a horrible crime and she's forced to keep it secret.
Part one of The Stone Flower Garden chronicles the relationship of young Darl and Eli. The story also reveals the mysterious past of the Hardigree family and the secrets Swan has kept all these years. The elder woman is a difficult, selfish soul. Darl struggles to break free from her grandmother's grasp.
The second half of this Deborah Smith novel takes place twenty-five years after the Wades' abrupt departure from Burnt Stand. Darl is still holding the secret and a build-up of guilt over it. Tragedy took Eli away from her, and tragedy brings him back. The feelings are still there, but she can't act on them. The secret she holds must be kept from Eli at all costs.
The Stone Flower Garden is a compelling tale. The revealed secrets of the Hardigree and Wade families are riveting. The intentions of Swan's sister are fascinating and shocking. Though her part is small, she has a pivotal role in the actions of the other characters.
Fast forward twenty-five years for the beginning of part two. The reunion between Darl and Eli is a bit silly. She doesn't know it's him. After a weekend at the beach, making love no less, she thinks this stranger named "Solo" reminds her of Eli.
Once they get the name game straightened out the plot picks up again. The criminal secret Darl has been holding will have to come out sooner or later. Smith holds the reader's attention until the final page is turned.
The story's setting is wonderful, but the time frame seems off. Part one takes place between 1972 and 1975, with part two proceeding twenty-five years later. The romance, secrets, and other issues covered just seem better suited between 1920 and 1950. Earlier times would have enhanced the unfolding events of the tale.
The Stone Flower Garden is a wonderful story. It's mysterious and haunting with just the right amount of romance. Though Darl gets a little clueless when it comes to Eli's identity, she's still endearing. Readers can't help but want everything to turn out fine. Deborah Smith does a good job of making that happen.