It is 1955. Achsa is a lonely, passionate and precocious fourteen-year-old. Isolated at school by her intelligence and disfigurement, troubled at home by the undercurrents in her parents' relationship, she finds comfort and inspiration in the tunes
and rhythms she hears on her radio. Hearing a recording by an unknown 20-year-old country
singer named Elvis Presley, she fires off a fan letter, telling him she knows he's going to be
Insecure in the world he is entering, passionate about music and burning with a desire to succeed, Elvis answers her and enlists her help in teaching him how to "talk good." The intimate, touching correspondence that follows chronicles Achsa and Elvis' coming of age as artists and individuals. Able to confide in nobody else, they share with each other their most private dreams and fears. Elvis becomes Achsa's sounding board as she watches her beautiful, distant mother and her sternly religious father lurch toward tragedy, confronts her own scarred mouth, and faces a shattering loss. The young singer’s responses reveal his fierce, aching innocence in the year before his star burst forth and offer a fascinating glimpse into the grassroots history of rock and roll.
About the Author
DIANE THOMAS holds an MFA from Columbia University and has been Entertainment Editor of The Atlanta Constitution, a writer for Atlanta magazine and a freelance writer/editor. She and her husband divide their time between the Georgia mountains and an island off the Florida panhandle. The Year the Music Changed is her first novel.
More praise for The Year the Music Changed
"I read Diane Thomas's book, The Year the Music Changed. I think it's terrific." - New York Times bestselling novelist Pat Conroy, author of My Losing
Season, in "What I'm Reading," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"A must-read novel, fresh, surprising, full-hearted, joyful and sad. If novels could sport bumper stickers, this one would read 'Love Me Tender' - and everyone would. - Fred Chappell, former North Carolina Poet Laureate
"A tender and often very funny evocation of yearning, love, disillusionment, joy, and, above all, the hard and redemptive necessity for change." - New York Times bestselling novelist Anne Rivers Siddons, author of Sweetwater Creek
"Elvis fan or not, you will not be able to put down this bittersweet correspondence between a legend in the months before he rockets to fame and the pen-pal who confides in him her own startling story." - Norris Church Mailer, author of Windchill Summer
"A wonderful debut. . . . Thomas has written a novel that unerringly depicts a pivotal time in American culture. More importantly, she has just as convincingly rendered the timeless intricacies of the human heart." - Ron Rash, author of Saints at the River
"Startling in its beauty! Two enormous spirits do nothing less than solve the mystery of how we learn to love - each other and ourselves. The pitch here is perfect. The whole novel sings. This book is as powerful as any love song Elvis Presley every recorded." - David Bottoms, former Georgia Poet Laureate, author of Waltzing Through the Entime
"A stunning achievement; it is soul-touching and memorable, and the writing is simply dazzling." - Terry Kay, author of To Dance with the White Dog
"A bittersweet, funny, big-hearted book that perfectly captures an era. Achsa and Elvis are so engaging, so flawed and fascinating, that their voices stayed with me long after I turned the last page." - Joshilyn Jackson, author of gods in Alabama
"That the imaginary correspondence (ostensibly on the subject of grammar) between Elvis Presley and a disfigured young Atlanta girl could be both immensely entertaining and enormously moving is a tribute to the talent of Diane Thomas. This novel will engage your mind and break your heart." - Steve Oney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise
Reviewers praise The Year the Music Changed:
"May engrave itself into the memories of more readers than To Kill a Mockingbird.... Thomas has pulled off a nearly impossible feat of the creative imagination, defying the stigma of epistolary fiction and, better, defying the overpowering cliché of Elvis Presley." - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Touching, funny and tender.... Highly recommended for all collections." - Library Journal [starred review]
"Warm, lively and immensely readable." - Publishers' Weekly
"Sweet and gripping.... A touching coming-of-age novel." - Kirkus Reviews