Thursday 18 April 2013

Book ~ "Whistling Past the Graveyard" (2013) Susan Crandall

From Goodreads ~ 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.

It's the summer of 1963 in Mississippi during racial segregation.  Starla is nine and living with her paternal grandmother, Mamie, who is really strict.  Her father, Porter, works on the oil rigs and her mother, Lulu, is apparently a singer in Nashville.

Starla is grounded yet again and has to miss the Fourth of July celebrations.  She sneaks out regardless but gets caught by a school mate's mother who threatens to have her sent to reform school.  In a panic, Starla runs away and heads to Nashville to hook up with her mother, who she feels is the only one who really loves her.  The problem is she hasn't seen her mother since she was three and doesn't know exactly where in Nashville she lives.

Along the way, she hooks up with Eula, a colored woman who has just found a white baby on the steps of a church and decides to keep him.  Her violent husband, Wallace, isn't happy that Eula has taken both Baby James and Starla under her wing.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I really enjoyed it.

I liked the writing style ... I thought it flowed well and was never boring. It is written in first person, from Starla's point of view, so we experience the thoughts, fears and language of a nine-year-old. I liked Starla's spirit, though I found her a bit too lippy and impulsive at times (which she herself admits a fault of hers).

Eula hasn't had a happy life and is living with the demons from her past. Whereas Starla is naïve re segregation, Eula knows and understands the rules of being colored ... separate seats on a bus, dining rooms, bathrooms, etc.

I thought the author portrayed the experience of segregation well.  I found myself getting caught up in the story ... I can't believe it was ever really like that.

I would recommend this book!

1 comment:

LAWonder said...

Thank you for the review. The stry sounds very interesting.
So many good people have had problems because of race or religion. It is interesting reading about overcoming opposition.