Tuesday 14 May 2013

Whistling Past The Graveyard Review

whistleWhistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

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.

Lisa's Review - 4.5 out of 5 stars

From the very first page to the very last word, this book was FANTASTIC! It was so hard to put it down! Told through the eyes of 9 year old Starla, we see the world when the colour of a persons skin determined the way they are treated. Starla, being a white girl, had grown up used to people with black skin being treated below white people, but we soon come to realise Starla has more determination, fight and spirit than that of many adults. She shows us that even a 9 year old child can see right from wrong and that skin colour should mean nothing.

Growing up with her Mamie raising her, her daddy out on an oil rig working, and her mamma  away in Nashville living like a superstar, it is not very hard to see why Starla wants to leave, and after her Mamie threatens to send her away, she embarks on an adventure to make it to Nashville to find her mamma. The trip to find her is far from smooth sailing, but somehow, by the end, Starla is more loving and loved by the end.

The character of Starla is amazing. Susan Crandall somehow always manages to make us remember this is just a 9 year old little girl, but makes her completely relatable for an adult to read. She is a little firecracker and I loved reading her story. Whistling Past The Graveyard isn't some 'happy ever after' story, it is a tale of divide, hardships and is real and gritty. The book brought out a whole range of emotions while reading, I managed to laugh out loud, I cried, I got angry...it's the kind of book I love to read, it sucks you in, you feel like you are right there in the story with them characters. At the same time it isn't too 'hardcore'. I recently read a book from a similar time as this one was set and found myself struggling with the language and old fashioned words I had no clue what they meant, but Susan Crandall managed to make me understand it all, and the language was not confusing or difficult to pick up.

Whistling Past The Graveyard was so well written, with characters to love, characters to hate, and a real good story that flows the whole way through cover to cover.

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