Thursday, July 25, 2013

Alice's Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Summary:  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.

Review:  This is something that has never happened before.  Although I finished this novel about a week ago, I have been unable to write the review.  The reasons preventing me have nothing to do with time and everything to do with how this novel has seeped into my soul.

It’s crafty and original:  Racism in the 1960s told from the point of view of a precocious girl.  It’s wonderfully written and although sometimes very difficult read, beautifully told.  This novel has all kinds of goodness.  It is funny, sad, poignant and touching.  I couldn’t put it down because I needed to know what would happen next.  Ms. Crandall does a wonderful job of conveying the urgency of the time.  Like Starla, I got angry at the injustice Eula faced and all because of the color of her skin.  It was a disgrace what she went through. 

Starla was a great character.  The girl had moxie and as a reader, I couldn’t help but hope things turned out well for her.  There were times when she was blissfully ignorant to the times around her.  It saddened me when she began having very adult realizations about life during that time.  Her innocent was stolen right before my eyes. 

I believe the real star of this novel is Eula.  She was such a beautiful character who risked herself to protect those she loved.  There was a simplicity in her and a vulnerability.  She loved fiercely in spite of the horrors she faced.  She was Starla’s biggest protector and their unlikely friendship is what carried them through their difficult times.

I highly recommend  Whistling Past the Graveyard.  It is an inspiring read.  Be sure to have some tissues handy, you will need them.

Final Take: 4/5


Beth Hoffman July 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM  

Wonderful review, Alice. I have this book on my list and hope to crack the spine soon.

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