A family tragedy ignites the stalled relationships between three sisters - Lydia, Madalaine, and Ellie. Lydia is married to Wayne, and the two have a daughter named Claire. Lydia is in a dead-end job, but she makes sure that her Claire has the best in life. Madalaine is a woman spurned; her husband has abandoned here to carry on a relationship with a much younger woman, leaving Madalaine to care for their two children, Brian and Jennifer. Lastly, there is Ellie, an eccentric woman employed at Wal-Mart with a strong passion for Elvis. Ellie flits through life taking care of her mother and father, and her mentally retarded brother, Charles. Ellie has dreams of her own but they seem so far away from the reality of her daily life.
Life rolls along for the sisters until Claire and Brian are in a car accident on the way to prom. Brian is killed; Claire is left severely injured. Understandably, Madalaine is overwrought by her son’s death, and she holds Lydia ultimately responsible for Brian’s death because Claire’s date was driving too fast. Apparently Claire had warned her boyfriend that he was driving too fast, but he did not slow down and lost control of the vehicle.
Lydia’s focus is on her own daughter. Claire lies in the hospital, in need of a kidney transplant and temporarily on dialysis until a donor comes available. Unfortunately, tests show that Lydia is not a match, nor is Wayne, forcing Lydia to come clean with a big secret that changes her marriage and her relationship with her daughter in a dramatic way. Lydia is ostracized from her family when all she wants to do is take care of Claire, but she is paying for past deeds instead.
Ellie shuffles between the two sisters, and while she does not directly try to inject herself in her sisters’ lives, the car accident has affected the whole family. As Madalaine becomes more irrational by the day and Lydia becomes more distraught over Claire, Ellie discovers new things about herself and her relationships with her sisters.
Graceland is a book about a family dealing with a major crisis, but it is about love, forgiveness and renewal as well. The characters are well-developed, their relationships complex. More humor would have made the book a bit lighter and more of a pleasant read. Overall, though, fans of intense family dramas will enjoy Graceland.