Sunday, August 11, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Title: Whistling Past the Graveyard Author: Susan Crandall Publisher: Gallery Books Pages: 321

I read this book on my Kindle.

From Amzon:
In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three—that’s when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla’s daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of “Lord, give me strength,” is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla’s life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

I enjoyed this book. Taking place (mainly) in Cayuga, Mississippi in 1963, this novel follows Starla Claudelle as she runs away from home in a split second decision that will change the direction of her life, as well as the lives of many others.
Abandoned by her mother, Starla lives with her Mamie- her father's mother- while he works at an off shore oil rig. Mamie plainly hates Starla as well as her absent mother and spends most of her time making Starla miserable. When Mamie's cruelties, as well as those of her small town, finally push her over the edge, she runs away, hoping to find her mother in Nashville. On the way, she meets Eula, a black woman traveling in a beat up truck with a white baby. Eula takes Starla home with her. What happens next (I won't include spoilers) sends the three of them on an adventure that will force them to face the hard, cold realities of life and will teach them the true meaning of love and family.
My heart went out to Starla. A young girl who was clearly unloved and unwanted by those around her. Her mother wasn't the only one who had abandoned her. Those around her had clearly abandoned her as well. Although it had some harrowing moments, this story warmed my heart. Crandall gets deep inside the minds of her characters and the motives behind their actions. I look forward to reading more of her books.

Read this book if...
*you enjoy southern fiction
*you enjoy books about racial issues 
*you enjoy stories that take place in the 1960's
*you enjoy stories that take place "on the road"

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