Monday, June 15, 2020

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall (Review)

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard is a classic tale that I would recommend all to read. It's timely and the perfect read if you're currently seeking out books to help in your journey to being actively anti-racist. 

Book Details:

Book Title: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
Category: YA Fiction,  320 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-age
Publisher: Gallery Books 
Release date: July 2, 2013
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Heavy themes of racial segregation, family abuse, parental abandonment, some language)

Book 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.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Whistling Past the Graveyard is one of those books that I will never forget. Susan Crandall is a master storyteller with characters that jump off the page and into your heart.

Told from the POV of whip-smart 9-year-old Starla Claudelle, we quickly get absorbed into the world of 1963 Mississippi in the era of the civil rights movement. Starla lives with her self-righteous grandmother but yearns to be with her mother in Nashville. After an incident, she runs away from home and is picked up on the road by a young black woman named Eula. Thus begins a dangerous, heartbreaking, and eye-opening adventure for both Starla and Eula.

Besides being smart, Starla is impulsive and feisty. She reminded me so much of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. It was brilliant for the author to make Starla the narrator because we see the world through her eyes, and we cannot but be reminded of what it felt like when we, too, as children came to learn about the hard truths in life. There were several times when I just burst into laughter and cracked up with how Starla saw things. And there were other times when I just wanted to hug her so tight to protect her from the world's ugliness.

The characterization in this novel is so well done. Each character stands out and I could very easily picture them in my mind. I loved being on this journey with Starla. Of being reminded of how fragile yet resilient the human spirit can be, even in the worst of circumstances. And of seeing how agape love is the uniting factor among people, no matter their race or skin color.

Whistling Past the Graveyard is a classic tale that I would recommend all to read. It's timely and the perfect read if you're currently seeking out books to help in your journey to being actively anti-racist. It's been on my reading list for so long and I'm so happy to have read it now. This novel is one of the best books I've read in 2020.

Disclosure: I received a Netgalley copy. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

Susan Crandall is a critically acclaimed author of women’s fiction, romance, and suspense. She has written several award-winning novels including her first book, Back Roads, which won the RITA award for best first book, as well as Whistling Past the Graveyard, which won the SIBA 2014 Book Award for Fiction. Susan lives in Noblesville, Indiana, with her family.

Connect with her here: Website

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  1. perfect time to share. great review
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. Yes, I'm glad I read this book during this time. #BlackLivesMatter

  2. I loved the title for this one :) And the young narrator sounds perfectly charming. I may need to add this to my TBR list. Thanks for sharing!


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