Losing Graceland

Ben Fish, fresh from college with an anthropology degree and yearning to go live in Amsterdam for a while to sort life out, answers an ad in a paper to be the driver for an old man who might or might not be Elvis, willing to pay Ben $10K to drive him from New York to Memphis. The old man, as he is usually referred to in the book, has learned that his estranged granddaughter has gone missing and he wants to go find her.

The book begins with just the right amount of humor to keep you interested, and eager to find out if the old man is the “real” Elvis or not. As the odd couple leave New York, they meet a colorful cast of characters along the way from oracles in Kentucky to karaoke loving bikers. They are eventually joined by a young hooker named Ginger, whom the old man and Ben saved from her pimp using the money that Ben was supposed to earn for being the driver. From there, the road drip drives the characters and the reader even more insane. Ben is just a lost college frat boy and never really learns any life lessons from the journey. The old man is painted as a pill popping delusional with a bad back.

The book draws to a mediocre climax, which lets both its characters and readers down, especially since the book barely breaks 200 pages. Just like the minor characters met along the way, we want to believe this is the real Elvis, but whether he is or not, he (and Ben) disappoint us tremendously. Micah Nathan basically set his characters loose without a road map. Even when the old man enters an Elvis impersonation contest to try to win some desperately needed money, the result is just another disappointment. When the two finally reach Memphis, the reader is cheated of the “Graceland” scenes which as the title suggests, were probably lost to the editor’s trash can.

The narrative switches between both Ben and the old man’s point of view, often without warning and causing you to become just as lost and numb as the old man himself who seems to be comatose as he babbles on about the way it used to be and sings bizarre lyrics that entrance everyone in the story – but not the reader. In fact, a bad Elvis impersonator in Memphis would probably be more entertaining. Like Elvis’s career, the book got off to a good start, but it was all downhill from there.

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