February 27, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard

by Susan Crandall
Coming-of-Age Southern Fiction

A nine-year-old girl runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963,
befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

Goodreads Description:
The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

Whistling Past the Graveyard is a fictional tale, yet depicts an authentic display of the harsh realities of the 1960s Civil Rights era. As she runs from her troubles, young Starla Claudelle is forced to face greater trials and fears than she ever thought possible.  

I loved the relationship between Starla and Eula. Their skin color, hardships, and outlooks on life are completely different, but they're bonded by their compassionate and steadfast hearts.

ProsThe characters are developed beautifully, the struggles and hardships of the Civil Rights movement are realistic, and I was instantly drawn in by the voice and flavor of little Starla's narration. 

Cons: None.

Overall: Whistling Past the Graveyard took me back in time and journeyed me through history, teaching me many lessons along the way. The only time I put this book down was when I had to go to sleep, and when I finished it. I love an engrossing southern read! 

Cover: Love it
Title: Love it
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 320
Pace: Some parts are fast paced, some are steady.
First Line: My grandmother said she prays for me every day.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The options I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

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