Leaving Elvis is a short story collection that spans three generations of a family across almost seventy years. Starting with a post- war story set in 1948, the reader is taken on a journey with Len’s family, his wife, his children, and his granddaughter, in their small farming town in Western Australia. The reader is taken on a sixty-eight year journey, from 1948, through the Vietnam War, to 2016, and the conclusion that brings the collection together.
Though the stories have settings other than the farming town, the characters always come back. It is a beacon, an anchor for the overall shared narrative and characters. They grow and evolve, and emerge as different people to when we first met them. The family connection is threaded throughout, with various members feeling linked to other characters, whether they want to or not, playing on the idea of family and what it means to be a mother, and the choices that are made. Each character makes what he or she thinks will be the right choice – for them, for their lives, for their future. Reading the book, I felt an array of emotions that went from joy to sadness and everything in between as life made itself known.
Crawford seamlessly links the stories together, alternating at some points between first and third person perspective. Usually this does not work in fiction, however, as each story is its own entity, I found that it worked nicely. This technique allowed the reader to get inside the head of the narrator and understand their motivations – motivations that changed as the stories went on and as the point of views changed, we are able to see how each narrator viewed the various characters around them.
This was a relatively quick read, both because of length and the desire to find out what happens, to see how the stories link together and the circle that is completed by the end. The threads that draw each story together ensure ease of reading from the first story to the last, and the journey across generations acts as a connection to history, time and place, as well as people.