Whistling Past the Graveyard - Susan Crandall

Release Date - July 2013

Susan Crandall
Gallery Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Long-time readers know that To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time. When I first received an email notifying me of the upcoming release of Whistling Past the Graveyard, I eagerly honed in on the comparison of this novel to Harper Lee's classic. I was excited to read Susan Crandall's latest. I've read and really enjoyed a few of her Warner Forever releases, so I already knew I loved her writing. Whistling Past the Graveyard is a bit different though, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Starla Claudelle is almost 10 and longs to go to Nashville, Tennessee. Her mother moved there to become a singer, and other than cards and letters Starla hasn't seen her mom in years. Her dad works on oil rigs, so she lives and is cared for her her grandmother, a no-nonsense women who expects Starla to act like a lady. Starla wants to stay on her grandmother's good side because the Fourth of July festivities are coming up and being grounded and unable to attend the fireworks show is the worst punishment Starla can imagine.

When Starla sees the town bully harassing a local handicapped girl, Starla steps in and breaks his nose. Her grandmother could care less about what he was doing, she simply sees this as another bad choice by Starla and grounds her. Starla decides to sneak out and attend the Fourth of July events anyway. Unfortunately, one of her grandmother's friends catches her, so Starla makes the rush decision to run away and head to Nashville to live with her mom.

On the road, Starla meets a young black woman who is hiding a white baby. This is the 1960s, so Starla knows that something is wrong, but Eula is friendly enough. Soon, Starla, Eula, and the baby are on the run. Starla quickly learns that things are not always as they appear, and she also learns quickly that her complaints about life are nothing compared to the racism that Eula faces every day.

I can see why there are comparisons to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Starla has that same level of innocence and what I call the "call it like you see it" attitude. I loved Starla's character as a result. The story is gripping and the setting simply comes alive thanks to the author's descriptive writing. I started the book while my husband's ball game was on and found myself unwilling to stop reading until I'd finished the final page.

I admit the 1960s are before my time. I know from classes and text books that racism was clearly not pretty, but Starla and Eula's adventures make it very clear in a way that will be hard to forget. Whistling Past the Graveyard is an excellent choice for book clubs and those looking for a gripping novel to keep them on the edge of their seat.


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