A Thousand Miles To Graceland by Kristen Mei Chase

Grace has been avoiding life and avoiding her moms calls for years, but when her Elvis obsessed mother decides she wants to go on a road trip to Graceland for her 70th birthday, and Grace finds herself suddenly single, she agrees to go. It’s a trip that may shake up her life and change her relationship with her mother forever.

Kristen Mei Chase is a bi racial Asian American author whose self stated goal is to write stories about bi and multi racial characters, and it’s a nicely done element in this book, where Grace is bi racial and her mother is Asian American.

Grace, our main character, is hiding from life and her feelings at the start of the book by playing things very safe. She works as an accountant because it’s a reliable, solid job, and she’s chose to marry her husband simply because he asked her. She avoids spending time with him or with anyone, and she only has one friend. She does this because she has anxiety and sometimes has panic attacks, but some of her behaviours are pretty toxic. I didn’t like her much. I felt sorry for her husband, who genuinely cared about her and had done everything to keep their relationship healthy while she made no effort. She calls him toxically positive when he doesn’t want to hear her be mean and complain all the time. Also, she’s very selfish with her best friend, only talking about herself, and she has a cat at the start of the book that she forgets about for most of the story, she judges people a lot and she left her mother to deal with cancer treatment alone.

On the other hand, we have her mother Loralynn. She’s tiny, has a thick southern accent, and dresses up in big hair, big shoes and rhinestones every day of the week, and she’s obsessed with Elvis. Of course, Grace hates that and finds her embarrassing. Loralynn isn’t perfect, but she is a lot more fun and a lot nicer than Grace. I wanted to learn more about her story and her life, who her parents were and what her hopes and dreams had been. I loved that she loved all things Elvis, and that she dressed up each day. I think this was pretty bold and creative in the small town that she raised Grace. I have friends who wear vintage everyday or make their own clothes, I make a lot of my own clothes. I think it’s cool. Loralynn is a great character for a book. I think this book might have worked better from her perspective.

I did find it interesting that both women have gone through trauma but only one of them has an anxiety disorder or mental health issues. I’m not sure why the author chose to write her characters that way.

Characters aside, this book is not entirely what it seems. If the author had written Grace with some trauma, some issues, but a lot of personal growth in the course of the book, you could class is as a quirky rom com/chick lit type book. Which is how the book is marketed. However, the book is light hearted and has some funny moments, has a little romance but then has these quite dark forays into the characters past trauma, which ranges through domestic violence, alcoholism, abuse and death. If you are triggered by these things, this isn’t the book for you. It felt a little odd to have this Elvis road trip meets The Glass Castle. And while there is a happy ending, without much personal growth from Grace, but more a litany of painful times, there are not the touching moments that this book needs. It seems like the fashion now for books to have a lot of traumatic pasts and PTSD for their characters so this may not bother the average reader or might be what they are looking for.

Read It If: you like your mother/daughter odd couple comedy road trip with a side of trauma. The light moments and minor romance plot keep it light reading, even as the themes are heavy.

Thank you to HBG Canada for the copy of this book for review.


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