Let me start with: I’m not an Elvis fan. I don’t like bananas. And, Michael Jackson will always be the King (with Justin Timberlake making a strong case to be co-King). So, when Kim Wright’s book, Last Ride to Graceland, arrived in my mailbox I was… Well, excited an author thought enough of me to send a book, but also wondering if this would be another novel about Elvis and his pelvis still shaking it somewhere in Vegas.
I’m so judgey.
I’m sorry, Kim.
Alas, as every good Southern judge knows, if someone wants to tell you a story you should at least pretend to listen (and hope it gets good). Kim’s main characters, Cory and Honey, have quite the story to tell.
It’s a hubba hubba burnin love good one! (Elvis said that, right?)
On the surface, Cory’s not the most redeeming character… a 38-year-old bar-hopping singer with a penchant for kanoodling with strangers and making the least amount of effort in every aspect of her life.
Even with that glowing impression, I liked Cory from the beginning. There’s something about honesty in a character; and a writer.
Kim had me from her opening paragraph:
May 30, 2015
I was a premature baby who weighed nine pounds and nine ounces. Yeah, I know. Impossible. But you have to understand that this particular kind of medical miracle is common in the rural South. Jesus still looks down from billboards around here and people still care what their neighbors think. We pray and we salute… most of all, we lie. It’s why we have so many good writers per capita, and so many bad writers too, because all of us learned how to bend the truth before we could even half talk.
We learn that Cory’s mom, Laura, left Beaufort, SC to chase fame and fortune (and mostly a get-the-heck-out-of-dodge card) as an Elvis Presley back-up singer as soon as she finished high school. She also left Bradley Ainsworth heart-broken when she turned down his marriage proposal.
Laura becomes Honey, one of the last singers to ever tour and live at Graceland with Elvis. A year later, Laura, slinks back into town 2 months pregnant and needing a plan.
And by slinks, I mean she drives Mr. Presley’s Stutz Blackhawk right through town and into Bradley’s arms a few days after Elvis is found dead at Graceland. They marry the next day. And seven months later have a nine pound and nine ounce premature daughter: Cory Beth.
See? In the first chapter Kim has you forgetting about Elvis impersonators and yearning to see exactly what unfolds in this family’s story.
It gets better… Cory finds the Blackhawk and decides to return it to Graceland. But, with a few clues she’ll follow the route to Graceland she feels sure her mother took 38 years earlier when Honey left Elvis’s homestead.
Everything about this book is charming and engaging. Cory’s journey takes each of us through those years of trying to figure out who the heck we really are. We get to hear from Honey too. Kim was kind enough to weave her side of the story throughout the novel.
What Cory discovers between Beaufort and Memphis is what we all discover when we look into our past events or actions and compare them to our current circumstances: Nothing is linear and everything is subjective.
Does it matter who her biological father is when the man who raised her loves her and calls her daughter?
Can she let go of unmet hopes and dreams to find a kind of peace that has eluded her for most of her life?
And can she really make it from Beaufort to Memphis in Elvis Presley’s prized Stutz Blackhawk that hasn’t been driven in 38 years?
Buy Last Ride to Graceland here and find out for yourself!