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 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.