Books

Book of the Week: Last Ride to Graceland

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My second book of the year was a joy to read.

I received this book in a rather odd way. My local movie theater gives books out for free in the summer, they usually loosely reflect the newest blockbuster. My boyfriend can attest to the pure joy I exude when I see a new book on the counter. You can understand though that I did not expect very much from a book being given out in such a manner. Therefore it sat on my bookshelf for the rest of the year. I was wrong about this book. I was wrong to assume it wouldn’t be very good. I also committed the mortal sin of judging a book by its cover. Due to the girly cover and the summary on the back I assumed it was just another YA novel about a girl in her adolescence. It is not. The main character is 37 and it is game changing. The story still manages to be a coming of age/ finding yourself novel but in such a refreshing and adult way.

The most important part of this review is; I was wrong about this book. I was wrong to assume it wouldn’t be very good. I also committed the mortal sin of judging a book by its cover. Due to the girly cover and the summary on the back I assumed it was just another YA novel about a girl in her adolescence. It is not. The main character is 37 and that detail is game changing. The story still manages to be a coming of age/finding yourself novel but in such a refreshingly adult way.

The story is a journey of discovery for the main character, Cory. It all starts with a relatively normal woman living a quiet life in South Carolina. She makes a living singing in local bars, at first she seems lonely but as the book unfolds the reader is shown she is just missing pieces of her own story. At the stories beginning it has been about a year since Cory lost her mother, leaving her with a father she has doubted since a fifth-grade hereditary project. We follow Cory to work and about her life at a slow southern pace, giving a nice pace to get to know Cory. Then at the edge of a swamp, her whole life changes. In a shed, she has been told to avoid all her life sits a big black muscle car. A car anyone growing up in the south at the time would recognize, a black Stutz Blackhawk, Elvis’ car.

At this point I would like to take a minute to explain the second most important part of my reading experience, I know nothing about Elvis. This car meant nothing to me, in fact, I had to look up images of it. As a twenty-something in 2017, I did not grow up with Elvis in my life or even my parents lamenting him. The only thing I vaguely knew was that Graceland was a tourist trap. Over the course of reading the story, I have done numerous google searches to educate myself about the King. It was refreshing to have a story peak my curiosity in such a natural way.

After finding the car, Cory starts to feel as if it is the answer to all of her doubts. She always knew her mother had sung backup for Elvis, but the stories were lost because she never wanted to talk about the time. Cory begins a journey to discover her own origin story. Using clues in the car that has been wrapped up since the day Elvis died she follows her mothers’ journey. Using receipts and modern technology she finds exactly where her mother stopped along the way and retraces the steps. When her mother made the drive it was an escape from Graceland but Cory takes it in reverse to return the car and perhaps find herself.

The story is told in a surprisingly easy to follow format. There are long chapters from Corys’ point of view with chapters from her mother interspersed. As you go with Cory to find the truth, Honey herself tells you the origin story. Honey give much-needed perspective for the reader to understand the gravity of how the past can shape the present.

During the road trip, Cory meets many a helpful southerner. The most memorable being a boy dog named Lucy, her mother’s closest friend from Graceland, and a Graceland security guard on his own journey. The story has a lot of depth, layers of discovery and carefully constructed history lessons. The book is light and airy, it left me feeling refreshed. Yet it feels like an action adventure book during the read. I did not want to put it down but it is a distinctively well-paced story that takes on the meandering speed of the south. A bit of an oxymoron but quite the accomplishment for the author.

I loved this book. I loved the characters and the growth displayed. I especially appreciate the lesson that even at 37 you can still be finding yourself. I would highly recommend this book. Despite the book revolving on the history of The King, readers to not need any prior knowledge, I can attest to that. Go pick up your own copy, you won’t regret it.

Small pieces of wisdom from the satisfying summary of the novel:

“The road has taught me that sometimes the smartest thing you can do is shut up and listen. People want to tell you their truth and they’ll do it, if you give them half a chance. -pg 321

And perhaps one of the greatest life lessons for a young person,

“In the end, people are whatever they choose to be.” -pg 325

Stay tuned for the next review of the New York Times Bestseller “This is Where it Ends” by Marieke Nijkamp.

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