I am an ardent fan of book groups-they are a wonderful way to discover new titles and discuss them with old and new friends over a glass of the adult beverage of one’s choice. In one of my groups we meet, read and discuss books and life 11 out of 12 months a year. Then comes December and we play. We pick a restaurant, purchase a paperback book and wrap it beautifully, then ask the server to give out the books to us at random (that way we don’t know who our book is from until we open). At our December 2015 meeting I received (from Diane) Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall.
This wonderful coming-of-age novel is set in Mississippi in the summer of 1963, the eve of the Civil Rights movement. Starla Claudelle is a feisty red-headed nine-year-old who lives in the small town of Cayuga Springs with her resentful grandmother, Mamie, determined to make Starla into a proper young lady. Being grounded over Independence Day is too much for Starla who makes an impromptu decision to run away to Nashville to live with her mother who is trying to break into the music business. Starla’s father works on an oil rig so running off to him is not an option.
While walking out of town, 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.
Crandall perfectly captures the voice and the innocence of a nine-year-old caught up in a time and place that is quickly losing its innocence. Whistling Past the Graveyard will resonate with readers who enjoyed The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Click on the link to place this book on hold: Whistling Past the Graveyard