The Tender Grave by Sheri Reynolds


When 17-year-old Dori goes on the run to escape prosecution for a brutal hate crime against a local gay boy, her only option is to seek out an older half-sister who she’s never met—a lesbian who is trying to start a new family of her own.



“Reynolds is a wonderful storyteller and master of pastoral imagery.”
The New York Times Book Review

From the author of the New York Times #1 bestseller and the Oprah Book Club selection, The Rapture of Canaan, and steeped in the rich tradition of Southern writers like Carson McCullers and Sue Monk Kidd, The Tender Grave is the gripping story of two estranged sisters who find their unlikely way toward forgiveness—and each other—after a gruesome and disturbing set of circumstances.

Dori, at age 17, participates in a hate crime against a gay boy from her school and runs away to escape prosecution—and her own harrowing childhood. In her pocket, she carries the address of an older, half-sister she’s never met. She has no idea that her sister Teresa is married to another woman, or that Teresa and Jen have tried and failed repeatedly to start their own family. When Dori and Teresa finally meet, they’re forced to confront that, while they don’t like or really even understand one another, they are inextricably bound together in ways that transcend their differences. Together, the sisters discover that shifting currents of family and connection can sometimes run deeper than the prevailing tides of abandonment and estrangement.

In The Tender Grave, Sheri Reynolds weaves complex themes of parenting, forgiveness, guilt, and accountability into a lyrical and lushly-woven tapestry that chronicles our enduring search for heart, home, and healing.

The Tender Grave was a finalist for the 2022 Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction.

“Sheri Reynolds is an essential voice from the American South—rich, haunting, courageous, big, and true.” —Lee Smith, author of Fair and Tender Ladies

“I read everything that Sheri Reynolds writes with wonder and passion and a recognition of the way she speaks to and about my people—and this novel is cause for all of us to rejoice.” —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

“An inherently absorbing and thought-provoking read from cover to cover.” —Midwest Book Reviews

SHERI REYNOLDS is the author of the novels Bitterroot LandingThe Rapture of Canaan (an Oprah book club selection and New York Times bestseller), A Gracious PlentyFirefly CloakThe Sweet In-BetweenThe Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb, and the full-length play, Orabelle’s Wheelbarrow. She teaches creative writing and literature at Old Dominion University, where she serves as its Department Chair of English and is the Ruth and Perry Morgan Endowed Chair of Southern Literature. Sheri previously taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, The College of William and Mary, and Davidson College. She and her wife live in Cape Charles on Virginia’s eastern shore.

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