A guest post by Rosey Lee, author of The Gardins of Edin, out this month.
When I made up a town called Edin, Georgia, for my debut novel, I did not think the name would stick. I assumed my editor would recommend that I spell it the same way as the garden where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. And I worried the choice would cause confusion for people who know that a place with that name already exists in Georgia.
The title of my novel, The Gardins of Edin, is a nod to the famous garden. But by changing the spelling and pronouncing it the same way, I sought to leverage common knowledge but send a sign that there is something special about my fictional town and the family, whose last name is Gardin, that lives there.
Eden, Georgia, is an actual town that is located in Effingham County, near the South Carolina border. But Ruth, Naomi, Mary and Martha Gardin live on a family estate in Edin, which I set about 30 miles from Macon, Georgia. If the characters’ names seem familiar, that is because the women have the names and personality traits of their biblical counterparts. Although religious knowledge is not needed to be drawn into the drama that rocks the Gardin family from the Christmas to Easter holidays, the plot of the novel offers an imaginary answer to the question of what happened after the stories told in the Bible.
The Gardin women are not the only important characters in the book. In its own way, Edin is a character, too. I grew up on the West Bank of New Orleans, so I understand that Southern towns have distinctive personalities. It was important that the setting of my novel provide a solid foundation for the Gardin family’s story to unfold and also for it to serve a crucial function in the family’s history.
As Southerners, history plays a large role in our everyday lives, dictating family traditions, what we eat, how we interact with others in our communities and so much more. I enjoyed the challenge of creating a modern Southern family whose future is strongly influenced by the past and the women’s respect for it. Even as the Gardins clash over power, status and control of their multimillion-dollar peanut business, the family’s history lies at the center of the conflict. Each woman struggles to hold on to her individual dreams and secrets, threatening the future of the family, the business and the legacy of their previously enslaved ancestors who founded the business and their town.
My intrigue with the real-life history of Eatonville, Florida, planted seeds for the framework and personality of my fictional Edin. I have often wondered how life might have turned out for the descendants of the previously enslaved people who founded Eatonville if the town had been allowed to thrive. Writing The Gardins of Edin gave me the opportunity to explore that question with the freedom that fiction affords. I allowed myself to dream through the creative process, but I also incorporated aspects of Georgia history and borrowed details from other towns founded by previously enslaved people to make Edin feel realistic.
Edin is a symbol of hope and new beginnings—essential elements for a complicated Southern family that is struggling to reconcile its past with its future. I hope you’ll enjoy the Gardin women, their town and their heartwarming journey.
The Gardins of Edin is one of our Fall/Winter Reads for 2023-24. See the full list here.
A native of the West Bank of New Orleans, Louisiana, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, Rosey Lee’s writing is inspired by the people, traditions and food that anchor her to the South. Learn more about her and The Gardins of Edin on her website. Follow her on social media @roseyleebooks.