Saturday, August 15, 2015

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I know, I know....its been eons since either of us has posted. It's been a rough few months, but now that summer is almost over and the kids will soon heading back to school I hope to post more often.


Title: Whistling Past The Graveyard
Author: Susan Crandall
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Death, Violence at the time of Civil Rights
Premise: "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" (

Opinions: This book was chosen for book club reading this last year. Unfortunately it was so popular that I was on hold forever at the library and finally got to read it two months after we held our discussion. The biggest hang-up with this book is that, even though is masterfully done, I'm afraid it can be lost in the influx of civil rights era books that have been released in quick succession over the last few years.

Having said that.....I love Starla. Starla is 9. She acts 9. She thinks like a 9 year old. She talks 9. She feels very real to me. And when she ends up running away and is forced to deal with some incredibly adult matters I was there with her as her thoughts battled her emotions to come to grip with reality in the 60s. I loved seeing her growth, her character arc, and her willing to fight for those she loves and for what she feels is right.  The difficulty of this story is that the dark matters revolving around self-worth, abuse, civil rights, and the treatment of others were so intense (especially knowing that Starla is only 9) made me wonder whether or not I could personally handle reading the rest. I love Ms. Cyrena and I love Eula, but Starla is my hero. And in spite of the danger, the darkness, and the heart-wrenching lessons she learns I'm glad that I endured the journey with her.  And it made for an incredible and complex book club discussion.  Overall my favorite line is toward the end when Starla is trying to come to grips with what she learned about the trials she went through....."God's plan ain't a free pass. Uh-uh. He give us moments to make choices, and we make them. We accountable for those choices. God's job ain't to make our lives easier, it's to make us better souls b the lessons he give us."

No comments: