Protecting Elvis

This work of historical fiction centers around three women who have been indelibly shaped by Elvis Presley, both his music and the man himself.

This second novel by Morgan (One August Day, 2013), set in the Southern United States during the 1970s, is organized in three distinct sections, each chronicling the story of a different woman whose life has been heavily influenced by Elvis. They include Velis Emerson, the agoraphobic secretary of the rock star’s Tupelo, Mississippi, fan club; Priscilla Johnson, a nurse whose brief acquaintance with the singer disrupts her personal life; and Notary Midgette, a longtime domestic worker at Graceland in Memphis, compelled to seek her employer’s help when her wayward son becomes involved with criminals. The three main sections are punctuated by interludes in the imagined voice of Elvis’ “Satnin Mama,” Gladys Love Smith Presley. The three women’s stories are situated in the context of the musician’s personal troubles during the final years of his life: the toxic lackeys around him, prescription drug abuse, the loss of his beloved mother, and the devastating end of his marriage. The novel explores the role of Christian faith in times of hardship through the struggles of the rock legend as well as those of Velis, Priscilla, and Notary. Through the lens of these women’s admiration for Elvis (and their speculation about his private life), Morgan deftly explores the universal difficulties of all kinds of relationships: within families, among friends, between lovers. While each of the three women’s stories ends on a cliffhanger, a final section that centers on the public reaction to the artist’s death provides resolution for each of them. The novel benefits from its engaging, sympathetic portrayal of three unique women; Elvis may be the center of gravity around which they orbit, but the stories of Velis, Priscilla, and Notary should plant a mark on readers and leave many wanting to know more. The tale’s careful structure also deepens the sense of reflection and refraction among the characters, calling attention to the universality of the challenges they face as well as their specificity.  A subtle, affecting glimpse into the lives of a trio of singular women molded by the works and personal character of a rock icon.

Pub Date: July 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4944-6006-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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