THE GIRL WHO LOVED ELVIS by Susie Mee

THE GIRL WHO LOVED ELVIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A mostly comic, if uneven, first novel about a girl in a 1950's Georgia textile mill town who nourishes herself with fantasies of Elvis and of her long-gone father--while her mother would rather she feed on Bible verses and anything dripping in fatback. LaVonne Grubbs works hard as a doffer in the mill's spinning room, saving up to move into her own apartment so she can get away from Momma, an embittered woman seemingly bent on keeping LaVonne, now a year out of high school, from having any fun. But just as LaVonne is aiming to light out, as daddy did, her mother has a heart attack and she's stopped. So LaVonne distracts herself from her dull life by singing in the Sunshine Choir, organizing ``The Real Elvis Fan Club,'' and daydreaming about her two heroes--her father and Elvis. Meanwhile, the plot pivots on a doffing contest (hard to visualize) wherein LaVonne's co-worker Grady Fay is the main contender--for the contest and her heart. His chances are diminished, however, by the jealousy of LaVonne's erstwhile boyfriend Gene, a malevolent character whose capacity for violence becomes fully realized later on when he lures LaVonne to Memphis for the funeral of Gladys Presley. (While the reader is not unprepared for the rape scene that ensues in a motel room there, the shift in tone is problematic.) Despite the rape, LaVonne attends the mourning of Gladys Presley--and then spots Elvis, who looks right through her. Later, back home, she'll also see her father--at her mother's funeral--but he, too, will disappoint. The author better manages the complexity of black humor at that funeral, with the tale ending on a resounding, deservedly high note. The comic strength of Mee's debut can sometimes sabotage both plot and character, but the language is dead-on, and the humor genuine. A promising debut.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56145-080-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Peachtree
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993