Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

Okay...  when I hear the name Elvis this is what I know:

Yes, everyone knows that Elvis was The King of Rock 'n Roll! 
I also have fond memories of watching all of those oldie but goodie Elvis movies with my mom.  He was indeed a beautiful man and a person that re-shaped an entire generation of music lovers.  The impact he made on the women of that generation can still be felt strongly even to this day when I hear my Aunties talk about him.  He was a man that managed to make an entire generation of women fall hopelessly in love with him and when you see him at his prime it is no surprise as to why. 
If you are an Elvis lover and if you are someone who can definitely relate to the quirky mannerisms of the south, then this is a book for you!  I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it gave me an opportunity to see Elvis in a different light.  The picture above is the young, healthy and beautiful Elvis.  But, this is the picture you need to have of him while reading this book:

Yes, this book takes us on a fictitional journey of the last days of Elvis Presley.  It showed me a side of him that I had not really seen or taken time to understand and I have an entirely new respect for him.  He was a King but he was also just a man who was deeply troubled and imprisoned by his fame.   

This book isn't due to be released until May 24th but fans of Kim Wright will no doubt want to put this in their to read pile! I fell in love with this author when I read her book The Canterbury Sisters last year so when I got my greedy little hands on this advanced copy I couldn't wait to dive in! And I definitely was not disappointed.

So, imagine yourself in one of these babies...  climb on in... and lets hit the road on a journey to Graceland!

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Lauded for her “astute and engrossing” (People) writing style imbued with “originality galore” (RT Book Reviews), Kim Wright channels the best of Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Pekkanen in this delightful novel of self-discovery on the open road as one woman sets out for Graceland hoping to answer the question: Is Elvis Presley her father?
Blues musician Cory Ainsworth is barely scraping by after her mother’s death when she discovers a priceless piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia hidden away in a shed out back of the family’s coastal South Carolina home: Elvis Presley’s Stutz Blackhawk, its interior a time capsule of the singer’s last day on earth.
A backup singer for the King, Cory’s mother Honey was at Graceland the day Elvis died. She quickly returned home to Beaufort and married her high school sweetheart. Yearning to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past—and possibly her own identity—Cory decides to drive the car back to Memphis and turn it over to Elvis’s estate, retracing the exact route her mother took thirty-seven years earlier. As she winds her way through the sprawling deep south with its quaint towns and long stretches of open road, the burning question in Cory’s mind—who is my father?—takes a backseat to the truth she learns about her complicated mother, the minister's daughter who spent a lifetime struggling to conceal the consequences of a single year of rebellion.
I will give you a little teaser... it's the opening paragraph:

"I was a premature baby who weighted 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 care what their neighbors think. We pray and we salute... and 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 to bend the truth before we could even half talk."

I was giggling out loud at this opening paragraph because I grew up in the South and yes, we do have some very unique ways of telling half truths to cover up the most ridiculous lies. And, we opt to just let these lies go even when we know that they are the biggest whoppers you've ever heard. It is a strange phenomenon but so very true! And this book is basically the story of a daughter that finally decides to dig out the truth behind a big whopper of a lie that she had been choosing to ignore for most of her life. But, as all lies go, the truth eventually finds it way to the surface. And, when Cory finds her truth it is indeed life changing. This is a book where past finally catches up with the present and truths are finally shaken out of the seats of a famous car with red leather seats... A Black Hawk that belonged to none other than... Elvis.
This author has a unique writing style that I think appeals very strongly to older women who have been through the many ups and downs that life can throw at you. Women who are that point in their lives when they begin to reflect on the past and are at a crossroads.
That is how I felt about this book. Cory was a woman who recently lost her mom. She was stuck in a rut and had an unsettled past. A past that was haunted by the spirit of Elvis and the impact he made on her mother. She travels the same route back to Memphis that her mom took back to her hometown decades ago in the hopes of discovering the secrets of the past that made her mom the woman she was. It was a "Who am I?" search. And, I'm sure we can all relate to that.
The book takes us from past to present and we get to meet her mom as a young woman named "Honey" and how her life became irreversibly changed because of her time as a backup singer for Elvis during his last year as a performer before he died. She was only with him for a year but the things that occurred during her time there would change her forever.
The one thing that I truly enjoyed about this book was the effect it had on me in regards to the life Elvis apparently lived behind the scenes. A man who had it all but it was still not enough. He was haunted by his own ghosts and he was clearly a troubled man. I only know Elvis as the King of Rock 'n Roll and never really thought about how hard this fame truly was on him as an ordinary man. He was indeed very eccentric, but also very compassionate and kind. Even though this is a work of fiction, I appreciated the way the author honored Elvis by adding in snippets of him as a real person who like everyone else can be forever haunted by the tragic events and loss that surrounded him throughout his life. Beautiful storytelling!
As someone who has recently lost her mom, I can tell you that the things mothers leave behind can drive you to do some serious soul searching. And, Cory had some of her own to do when she found a very large secret that her mom had been hiding from her for almost 30 years hidden in the shed after her death.
Cory's road back to Graceland as she followed her mothers long ago footsteps is a compelling, touching and emotional journey of a young woman discovering that life is not always as it seems. She meets some very eccentric characters from her mothers past that helps her to learn not only who her mother truly was but she also eventually finds out where she truly belongs.

I adored this book and I have found a new author to stalk! She definitely writes stories that touch me in ways that will keep me coming back for more.

5 standing ovation stars!!

I received an ARC copy of this title as a member of the
Simon & Schuster XOXperts Street Team!

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