[dropcap]If[/dropcap] the title of Leslie Vryenhoek’s latest novel reminds you of Paul Simon’s song Graceland, that could be by design, for there are several characters looking for Graceland (although it’s a very different one from Elvis’ mansion). Their stories are told in separate threads that eventually merge to a climactic finish at Graceland, a renovated motel in Newfoundland, near the L’anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.
One thread involves a drug dealer called Slake and his female companion, Dawn, who disappears with a large amount of his money in the middle of the night and head east, hitchhiking along the way. She eventually gets a ride with an older man named Jerry who takes her to Newfoundland where his cousin has a small motel. This is in 1977. Another thread has Ethan, who as a youngster was abducted and abused before he was found, and in the meantime, his name became a household word due to the media at the time. His story begins in 2012. In 2013, we have Spenser, an ex-con who works for a successful charitable organization that helps ex-cons get help with developing “life literacy skills.” That same year, we are presented with Cheryl, a single mom who desperately wants to understand and connect with her teen daughter Jenna. There is a lot to tell before all these eventually end up in a snowbound Graceland. This is the magic of We all Will Be Received: telling these stories set in different years, with different characters, different voices and transitioning them ever so cleverly to Newfoundland.
Aside from some rough language, there were few negatives to be found in reading this story. True, not all the characters are likeable, nor are the things they do, but those flaws add to the story, not detract from it. And, throughout most of the book there is the rugged beauty of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland which Spenser well describes:
He’d had hours on the drive up the peninsula to get used to this coast. Astounded at first by how much the topography reminded him of Northwestern Ontario. Then, his agitation growing, deciding it was similar but stunted. That it lacked even a whiff of majesty like God had taken a beginner’s course in fashioning rocks and trees but they’d all turned out misshapen and scraggly. That God must have moved on, tried again further west, finally hitting His stride only when He got to the Rockies.
If you like stories that at first glance appear to have no common thread, then We All Will Be Received is a book you will definitely enjoy and receive much reading pleasure from. Breakwater Books produces some of the best contemporary fiction on the East Coast, and this book well represents the genre.
“Even once you’ve read the last page, you’re still enthralled and you’re still right there, in the refurbished Graceland Inn, hoping there’s more book to read because you’re not ready to say goodbye to the characters”. — Lisa de Nikolits, author of The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution
We All Will Be Received by Leslie Vryenhoek
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.