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Book Review: What Would Elvis Think?

WHAT WOULD ELVIS THINK? edited by Johnny Lowe is a stunning tribute to Mississippi through the eyes of some of its most talented writers. Check out what Jaylynn Korrell of IBR has to say about this short story anthology.

“Book Review: What Would Elvis Think?”

Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell

A stunning tribute to Mississippi through the eyes of some of its most talented writers

The Clinton Ink-Slingers in a non-profit writing group that has published two nonfiction books in the past, but now, they’ve plunged into the world of stellar short fiction with What Would Elvis Think? Set in their home state of Mississippi, these stories are, to put it bluntly, very, very good.

When I first think of Mississippi, I think of sweet tea and a smooth, slow pace. But not everyone does; some think first of mystery, of ghosts, of strong women. This authentic anthology features a wide variety of storytelling styles that speak to Mississippi life and the overall human experience.

This anthology begins with the gorgeous prose of “What If We Were Strangers?” by Kyle Summerall. This piece tells the story of a man who returns to his hometown to retrieve his father’s ashes. While there, he has to account for the things he’s inherited, but to his surprise, they end up being more internal than material. As in life, grief is a common theme throughout many of these pieces, and they often do it so well.

“If God was a lamb, and Satan a snake, my father was the slit of cold darkness one could find in the snake’s eye, and by then, if you’d been so unfortunate as to see it, it was too late.”

– From “What If We Were Strangers?”

Not all of the stories about loss are doomed to be sad. Matter of fact, a handful of them have me cheering for the women who initiate it. These women protrude a softness and strength that sometimes even surprises them.

For example, in “Moving the Finish Line” by Melanie Noto, the protagonist is in the hospital with her dying husband. But when her friends come in, we realize it’s not sympathy we’re stewing in—it’s rage. She has learned that he cheated on her again, adding to the countless times he has done so over their decades-long marriage, and she just can’t find the sympathy expected of her. But lucky for us, soon, she becomes the force of her own decision making. It’s an absolute pleasure to read this woman’s story and many others throughout the anthology.

The emotionally heavy stories in this book are balanced well with those that really lighten the mood. “The Thornton Line” is a deeply imaginative piece that I actually cheered for at the end; that, and “The Garden Club” packs a similar imaginative punch. The overall tone of the book is fairly heavy, so keep those tissues handy, but I hope you’ll find the mix of the lighter-toned stories just enough to keep you churning forward to a terrific end.

Though a Mississippian will find comfort in these familiar places and people, you won’t have to be anywhere near it in order to feel a connection to its stories. The vivid descriptions of the landscape and the heartfelt people who inhabit this place make for a really excellent anthology of short southern fiction.

Genre: Short Story Anthology

Print Length: 240 pages

ISBN: 978-1096035503

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