Leaving Elvis by Michelle Michau-Crawford
Genre: Fiction, short story collection
Leaving Elvis is a beautifully crafted, suspenseful collection of short stories which are richly embedded in Australian family history. The collection begins in 1948 as we hear from the character of Len, a married man who has recently arrived home from his post during World War 2. When he arrives to his home in Perth, Western Australia, Len is struggling to be the man he was before the war as he seeks out the company of his deceased soldier’s son to reminisce about the good old days.
Len’s chapter reveals snippets about his wife and family, but it isn’t until the following chapter (set in 1956) that we hear from Len’s wife Evie from her perspective. The chapters continue to jump to and from members of Len and Evie’s family and all the while time is ticking on and their lives progress, complicate, characters die and their lives become intertwined, reflective.
The second half of the collection focuses on Len and Evie’s daughter, Olive, and how after the mysterious disappearance of her baby brother she copes with the feelings of blame and guilt throughout the duration of her life. Leaving Elvis spans three generations of the same family and it is a tender and harrowing tale of life, love and loss; it is honest, it shows the weakness and messiness of life and, as a reader, I found that really intriguing and refreshing.
I also really loved the references to historical pop culture throughout different chapters and how the final chapter is set in 2016, so you feel a sense of historical reflection while you’re standing still in the world of today. I highly recommend this short story collection to anyone interested in family history, Australian history and to all lovers of short fiction.
Leaving Elvis has been a highlight in my reading so far this year and it’s one of those books I’ve continued to think about long after I’ve turned the final page.
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