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The Land of Grace

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Looking like Elvis and sounding like Elvis are not enough for tribute artist Doyle Brisendine. Deep in his heart, Doyle wants to be Elvis. After performing in front of a wildly enthusiastic group of seniors, he realizes the absurdity of his fantasy and sees a dead end looming. Then, in the midst of his despondency, his world brightens as a beautiful young woman offers him not only flattery and a dinner invitation, but a pile of cash and a ride in an antique pink Cadillac. He thinks he’s died and gone to Elvis heaven after she takes him to a replica of Elvis’s Graceland. At first he believes the place is an amusement park staffed by actors portraying characters from Presley’s life, including the Memphis Mafia and the man known as the King--an Elvis impersonator who looks like the singer in his final years. The longer he stays, the more he realizes he’s in the company of a zealous cult, ruled by a ruthless matriarch called Mama and founded on worshiping the King. At his first hint of leaving, his status changes from honored guest in the mansion to shackled prisoner in a copy of Elvis’s humble Tupelo birthplace. There he’s fed a daily regimen of Elvis-centric gospel, laced with potent drugs. Escape seems impossible . . .

253 pages, Paperback

Published May 20, 2018

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Mike Burrell

1 book23 followers

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Allison.
52 reviews7 followers
January 10, 2019
Kidnapped by an Elvis cult? Sounds ridiculous but it's really not. This first novel by Mike Burrell is certainly a book I could not put down until I was finished. After I was done, I asked myself, "What would I do if I was in Doyle's (protagonist) situation?" You'd be surprised at you're own answer. This is an emotional thriller with hair pin curves, brain washing, sex, drugs and southern fried chicken. The story's ending is one I'd never expect. I kept thinking Stephen King when I read this.
Much thanks to Mike Burrell for sharing his talent,
Al Monte
Profile Image for Joe.
Author 45 books28 followers
June 4, 2018
Are you an Elvis freak? Whoa there, be careful. See the trouble it gets tribute artist Doyle Brisendine in at a faux-Graceland in Alabama. At once delightful and harrowing, with increasing tension for Doyle, whose final decision is . . . scary at the least.
Profile Image for Ramey Channell.
Author 5 books32 followers
September 1, 2018
Four stars, maybe five! Doyle Brisendine, talented young Elvis impersonator, has been kidnapped! Who would kidnap an Elvis impersonator? And what diabolical plans do they have in store for him? I highly recommend The Land of Grace to anyone who likes a rollicking, sinister, surprising story. Not for the squeamish, full of unexpected and unusual twists, very well written, a unique Alabama page-turner.
Profile Image for Renee Davis.
18 reviews
August 6, 2018
This book was surprising. It was funny, ridiculous, dark, sad, and in the end, did not come to the conclusion I was expecting. I kept having to turn the page because I HAD to know what happened next. All in all, it was a roller coster ride which is what we all want in a good book. Although I am not sure if I like the way it ended or not, (haven't made up my mind yet), it surprised me by not following the normal path, and for that, I LOVED it!
Profile Image for Todd Dills.
Author 10 books11 followers
February 10, 2019
This book, from the publisher who's putting out my novel later in the year, is a riot of a tale of an Elvis cult in Nowhere, Alabama (my own name for the locale). By turns cartoonish and dead-level serious, the story will no doubt appeal to fans of stuff like Barry Hannah's fabulist "Never Die" Western or "Geek Love" or anything that gives you that sort of feeling where you're not sure whether to laugh, cry or just do what you really want to -- turn another page.
Profile Image for Michelle.
169 reviews14 followers
September 6, 2018
This book was both funny and creepy. The whole thing just seems as if it's one big joke-people being so fanatical about Elvis that it becomes a cult? But as we delve deeper into the story, I started to get uncomfortable, not because of what was happening, but because this is the type of thing that happens all the time! And I don't just mean in religious cults, but in day to day relationships there are people who are caught up in their delusions and wind up brainwashing others around them all the time. This book had me laughing and at the same time taking a closer look at all the layers of psychology thrown in here. Excellently done, and my only complaint is it felt a bit rushed at times.
Profile Image for Sidney.
Author 10 books38 followers
March 28, 2021
This is one deeply Southern tour de force de farce, which is authentically Elvisonian in every way. Burrell’s ribald comic timing is impeccable. And he has peopled his lush landscape with every character a reader could ever hope to encounter in a cult compound of Elvis worshippers. I heard echoes of Faulkner’s Sanctuary, O’Connor’s Wise Blood, and Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, even if Burrell can’t resist the punchline. I laughed out loud many times...five nickels! You’ll see.
Profile Image for Robin Summers.
21 reviews
August 24, 2018
Now that was a crazy wild ride. Follow Doyle, an Elvis impersonator. The roller coaster of the Land of Grace is riveting from start to finish. The author does a fantastic job of weaving the web of what happens if you get pulled in when you love a celebrity. I really didn't expect the ending.
Profile Image for Jessica Belmont.
1,482 reviews44 followers
August 17, 2018
Admittedly, I’m not sure I would have picked this one up on a whim. Something about the synopsis drew me in.

This was an interesting read. I don’t know a ton about Elvis, but the author did a great job of keeping me hooked through the story regardless. There we’re many times I found myself laughing out loud, but also equally I found myself disturbed. The Land of Grace was thrilling, dark, sad and funny, all wrapped up into a unique novel.

I’m still thinking about the ending. I’m not sure it ended the way I wanted it to or not, but I can tell you one thing, you won’t see it coming.

Overall a compelling story. I think Elvis fans would enjoy it just as much as non Elvis fans.

*I received this book as part of a blog tour. All opinions are my own.*
3 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2019
Interesting book. Not my usual choice, but I'm intrigued by cults, so I gave it a try (and I worked at the publisher in college a lifetime ago). I enjoyed the book. The cult of Elvis was fascinating. I could completely imagine it being a real thing (maybe it is?).

I also (like other reviewers) had some issue with the ending. I liked it as the ending, but I don't think it was earned. Generally, the characters were flat so the protagonist's choice at the end didn't make that much sense. But I wanted it to. I wanted to know more about him, and I wish the author would've spent more time making him more of a real person instead of just someone along for a crazy ride.

A drawback for me was the gross treatment of women throughout. Mama was the most fleshed-out character, and I don't believe for a moment she'd sanction the coming out ceremony or the doctor. There's some intense misogyny going on this book. And it doesn't fit the characters (and also just feels unnecessary).
Profile Image for Ron Yates.
Author 2 books1 follower
June 19, 2019
In his novel The Land of Grace, author Mike Burrell pulls off an impressively satisfying balancing act. Contrasting elements are in play throughout: light against dark, comic narrative against serious commentary, slapstick humor against shocking violence. Fully rounded dynamic characters are cast in textured relief against stock Southern figures. Once inside these pages, the reader suspends disbelief on the promise of comedy awaiting inside a religious cult that worships the risen Elvis—a premise made plausible within the rural Alabama setting—only to discover that the humorous elements are mixed with violent, tragic images. The cult’s carefully constructed village, built around a facsimile of Graceland, becomes a Theatre of the Absurd, where broad comedy and frightening tragedy are locked in a frenzied dance of life and death.

The protagonist, Doyle Brisendine, is a talented Elvis impersonator whose skill and attention to detail are barely enough to support him in a time when his prospective audience is dwindling. The novel opens during his latest show at an out-of-the-way Amvets club in Willow Ruth, Alabama. The audience is especially appreciative, and he has mysteriously been promised more than six times his usual fee to come there and perform.

In the dilapidated dressing room after the show, Doyle is skeptical that he will ever be paid the promised amount when the manager, aptly named Parker, knocks on the door. The mystery deepens when Parker hands him an envelope fat with cash and informs him that someone sent by his “sponsor” wants to see him. The someone is a beautiful woman who seductively suggests they have dinner together.

Doyle, taken aback by her pink ’55 Cadillac Fleetwood, nevertheless settles in the plush passenger seat, setting into motion the bizarre series of events that propel the narrative. He finds himself, after the mysterious woman drives him over miles of dark and winding Alabama back roads, inside the gates of the Graceland replica, the headquarters of Our Lady of TCB Church. The details of the establishment of this “church” and its operation are linked to the escalating events of the narrative as they inexorably unfold.

At the center are Mama, the mastermind, and her staff of “apostles,” modeled and named after characters from the Memphis Mafia. Before she became a prophet, Mama was Carolyn Susan Haney, the daughter of the wealthiest man in Willow Ruth and the surrounding counties. After living most of her adult life up north married to a wealthy Jewish businessman, deaths bring her back to her childhood home. Her father’s factory is now closed, and she is shocked to find her father’s “children,” those who were previously in his benevolent employment, now forced after the closing of the factory to live in a ramshackle trailer park, victims of foreign competition and an opportunistic slum lord. After much soul-searching, she envisions a way to provide salvation for these people through her enduring love of all things Elvis and her inherited fortune. She concludes that “all you really needed to be a prophet was . . . to find a bunch of people who really needed a prophet and the chutzpah to call yourself one.”

This background provides plausibility for the plot as well as opportunity for Burrell to explore satirically the phenomenon of religious extremism and how cults are able to indoctrinate and control their needy converts. Our Lady of TCB Church is begun out of desire to help poor agonized souls, but, through the rising megalomania of its founder, becomes oppressive, self-serving, and evil. The careful reader will be able to draw many parallels. The church has its own set of scriptures, the Gospel of Gladys, penned by Carolyn as she was becoming Mama. Practices such as shunning and the sexual abuse of young girls are not just accepted but condoned and celebrated.

The triangle of major characters is completed by Rhonda, the young woman who takes Doyle from the Amvets club to the church headquarters. She has fulfilled key roles throughout the history of the church but has now fallen out of favor with Mama. Her mission, to bring in the next incarnation of their risen lord, is a way for her to regain her former status alongside the apostles.
Romantic attraction grows between Doyle and Rhonda, and the reader, hoping they’ll be able to escape the cult’s clutches and build a life outside of “Graceland,” eagerly follows them as the escalating action turns dark. The white-knuckle suspense of the final act is the result of unpredictable twists and turns and surprisingly graphic imagery. The novel becomes a fast-paced action thriller, a quality that is earned by cleverly placed details and foreshadowing. By the time the action reaches a climax, Burrell has shown himself to be masterful at this kind of writing, as well as witty dialogue, social commentary, and satire. The final scenes fulfill Aristotle’s requirements for a perfect ending: unexpected, yet the inevitable result of what has gone before.

The deeper you delve into The Land of Grace, the more you’ll appreciate the carefully constructed plot, the nuanced characters, the humor, the action, and the skill of Mike Burrell in pulling it all together. Go ahead, step inside that elaborate gate. Salvation from the mundane awaits.

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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