Monday, November 23, 2009

Flowers for Elvis-Julia Schuster

Flowers for Elvis
Julia Schuster
Bell Bridge, Apr 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780982175613

Single woman Willard gives birth to twins; one is white while the other is black. She knows that in the Eisenhower era in Mississippi she, the kids and her lover would be lynched. However, the black child Olivia dies, but instead of the newborn’s soul going to heaven she remains at the portal to watch over her sister whose life will be difficult. Willard’s sister Genevieve is also pregnant and the Mother Superior orders her to keep her niece (though she doesn’t know it is her sister’s child) saying she had twins.

Over the years Olivia’s spirit watches over her twins whom she loves equally. They do not have an easy life because Genevieve is a bit touched, ignoring her children as they grow up; providing a terrible home-life due to drinking, stealing and turning tricks. As a young teen Louisa gets pregnant and her lover refuses to leave his wife. Louisa stays with him as his mistress; she has several miscarriages. Her twin Anna Beth tries to be supportive and though their lives are stretched neither breaks. However, their attitude towards their mom is different as they have given up trying to reach the horrid woman. Their spirit sister Olivia tries to console them as she knows God has a plan for each of them.

The poignant story line focuses on a dysfunctional suburban civil Rights Era dysfunctional Mississippi family. The narrator Olivia tells the tale of her sisters and like readers learns late in the plot what her purpose is and why God cannot take her to him at this time. Genevieve suffers from mental illness but little is understood about her illness. She is self destructs believing her patron saint is Elvis and she almost destroys the twins she neglects. Flowers for Elvis is a touching tale made stronger by a unexpected spin.

Harriet Klausner

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