By: Kim Wright
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 5/24/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
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.
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Inspiration behind the book
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Southern storyteller, Kim Wright returns following her sensational The Canterbury Sisters with a wild ride of fun and self-discovery, LAST RIDE TO GRACELAND. The only way forward--to re-visit the past.
Bittersweet, a road trip to self-discovery, through the deep south, quaint towns, history, quirky characters, and a journey to the truth of a complex mother, and a father who just might be the "King" of rock n roll.
“It was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.” --Bruce Springsteen
Part One Set in lovely, Beaufort, South Carolina, we hear from Cory Beth, 2015. A child of the rural Old South. Unlike Atlanta or Charlotte, just a place people drive through on their way to somewhere else. People like to protect something they love-like their family, their dignity or their reputation.
Cory was born seven months and four days after her parents got married. After her mamma left Graceland—did she make a mistake? She was a backup singer and went on the road instead of staying in town and marrying the local boy. She had been eighteen and had something to prove.
Laura Berry had left Beaufort—she toured and Bradly Ainsworth was left in the dust. However, in late summer of 1977 she returned. She had seen the world and had enough. She left Memphis –would he still have her? Bradley was a good man. He had nursed her mother when breast cancer took her. Deep down he has got to know. Cory wonders if Elvis Presley is her real daddy. Cory always knew she was meant for greater things—plus she can sing.
Cory discovers a 1973 Stutz Blackhawk in her parent’s shed- a time capsule. Elvis died in Tennessee and the car’s in South Carolina, so unless a ghost sat behind the wheel, it most likely was her mother, Laura Berry Ainsworth, aka Honey Bear. She needs to retrace honey’s single wild year in Graceland. With the help of some notes left in the car she begins her journey.
Cory, 37-year-old blues musician who has been stuck hopping from one bar to another, wants answers about her past. What was her mother thinking when she left Graceland, driving back to Beauford, SC.
Flashing back and forth from Cory, 2015 to Honey, 1977. Honey was coming home in shame, with a car, no possessions, she did not like being poor. Her mama wanted her to marry Bradley, but she did not love him. She told her she may change her mind, because the human heart was a mysterious thing.
Part Two Macon, Georgia --A quest to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past, she drives back to Memphis, trying to retrace her mom’s steps from years ago. Part three, Fairhope, Alabama. Part four Tupelo, Mississippi. Were there other candidates for her father? Part Five: Memphis, Tennessee. The journey and the roads she takes –further from her destiny. A complex portrait of her mother—whose beautiful voice and rebellious spirit inspired the King.
Her desperate search for a father yields instead a complex portrait of her mother, (the parts of the woman—“rooms” inside her she didn’t really know).
While searching for her biological father, a road trip adventure provides a powerful bond of music and family in unexpected ways. An ongoing theme of memory-an integral and powerful part of the story. Ideal for book clubs and further discussions---how often do we want a different life than what we are born with—we run to escape for a better life (especially if you are from the South).
Even though I am not a huge fan of Elvis; however, always fascinating, a talented young man, from a poor Southern town, rises to glitz, glamour, and stardom. Was especially delighted, to discover Kim Wright, Charlotte, NC (also, a Charlotte native) and quickly purchased the audiobook, The Canterbury Sisters.
Wright has a unique storytelling skill, keeping you invested in the characters, and the ongoing mystery. Deeply moving, emotional, familiar places, music, and Southern dialect, blending the two time frames of both mother and daughter--mixed with humor and the true meaning of family.
Strongly reminded of Catherine Ryan Hyde with her adventures and journeys-always some wisdom, mystery, and lessons learned along the way! Loved reading the Inspiration behind the novel, and the author’s own road trip.
For further reading: HuffPost Science Feb, 2016 Elvis Presley’s Death — What Really Killed the King, by Garry Rodgers Former homicide detective and forensic coroner
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About the Author
When I was a kid I was so obsessed with books I used to check out four at a time from the library - that was the limit in the small NC town where I was raised - then walk down the street, sit under a tree, and read them as fast a I could so I could go back to get four more.
Now I am the author of Love in Mid Air, The Unexpected Waltz, The Canterbury Sisters, and the upcoming Last Ride to Graceland, all published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. My books focus on women who reinvent themselves at midlife - who arrive at the ages of 40 or 50 and begin to seek a whole new direction for their lives. I see this in myself and so many of my friends and have always wondered why fiction tends to mostly tell the tales of twentysomethings - as if nothing interesting happens to women after that! I love following my feisty midlife heroines on their spiritual and romantic adventures.
I also write the City of Mystery series which includes City of Darkness, City of Light, City of Silence, City of Bells, City of Stone, and the Christmas-themed novella, The Angel of Hever Castle. This series is set in the Victorian era and deals with another of my obsessions, the founding of the first forensics unit in Scotland Yard. My chief detective, Trevor Welles, struggles to be a modern man in an antiquated system.
I am the mother of two grown children and recently became a grandmother for the first time. (I highly recommend it!) My hobbies include ballroom dance, travel, and dogs. Read More