Graced Land

Laura Kalpakian, Author Grove/Atlantic $18.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1474-7
Although even devoted Elvis Presley fans may at first find it difficult to warm to this novel, perseverance will be rewarding. Beneath its dense veneer of laudatory references to The King lies an absorbing tale of hardship, love and the value of holding true to convictions. Emily Nash, a timid and desperately lonely young social worker, lives in the small California town of St. Elmo, and remains stubbornly faithful to her absent law-student fiance. Emily's caseload includes Joyce Jackson, a welfare mother who has named her kids after Elvis's ex-wife and daughter and festooned her front porch with Elvis memorabilia. It is with some trepidation that Emily first visits Joyce's so-called Heartbreak Hotel; there, she meets not a fruitcake but a new friend. As the two draw closer together, we learn that Joyce's unusual behavior fully manifested itself when her husband left her on the eve of Elvis's death; since then, she has existed on welfare and on her illegal, unreported income from sewing quilts out of scraps. Emily eventually must make a choice between rational, professional conduct and her affection for Joyce. Kalpakian's ( Beggars and Choosers ) characters are a spirited lot who totally involve the reader's interest and emotions, although their tendency to speak in song titles can be irksome. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1992
Release date: 05/01/1992
Genre: Fiction
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