The Dew reviewed - while screaming "YES, READ THIS BOOK" the entire time - in July of 2013. It's now coming out in paperback and also is listed as the Target book club pick for February. So once more I will say, "YES, READ THIS BOOK".
Comes out Feb 4th in paperback.
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Author: Susan Crandall
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
I found this to be a very gripping read with a wonderfully refreshing 9 year old protagonist. Starla goes on a journey in mind, body and heart.
Starla lives in a small Mississippi town and feels somewhat unloved and abandoned. She's a sheltered girl who decides to run away after tiring of her Mamie talking about how trashy her mother was one too many times. She soon finds herself way over her head in dangerous situations.
Luckily she has two fine upstanding black ladies who put their lives on the line to keep her safe and sound. The love and caring these women felt for this child, and any child, leaps out of the pages of the novel. The fact that they're protecting this white child while living in the Deep South in the 1960's warms the soul.
This book does remind me in ways of one of my favorite books in recent history, The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. Both deeply moving novels of black and white relationships in the South during turbulent times. Both much deeper and more meaningful than that pesky The Help book.
There was only one jarring bit to the book - it stayed perfectly on spot with the mannerisms, characteristics and dialect of the times, except for on page 38 when 9 year old Starla actually says, "back in the day". Hmn. Not sure how that was missed. I did Google that saying strenuously to make sure that was perhaps not a saying that was around then that just has had a resurgence recently.
Other than that - a great story that I recommend.
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.
Read an Excerpt HERE.