Book Review: Whistling Past The Graveyard

Whistling Past The Graveyard CoverBook: Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Expected Publication is July 2, 2013 by Gallery Books

*This is an e-book received through*

Pages: 320

Genre: Adult Fiction: Historical Fiction

Goodreads|Susan Crandall’s Website

Summary: From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip. 

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.

I liked Whistling Past The Graveyard.  When I initially started reading it, I was reminded of both The Secret Life Of Bees and The Help.  And it was something that stayed with me throughout the entire book.  I think it’s the setting and time period, which makes for an interesting backdrop.  There’s just something about this time period that really piques my interest.

I found Eula’s story so interesting, and found myself connecting Eula a lot more than I ever expected.  My heart broke for her, and I’m so glad she found happiness in the end!

One of my favorite parts of the novel was when Eula and Starla became unlikely companions and started to see the other as family, showing that family can be more than people you’re related to.  I liked that Starla and Eula became friends with someone they never expected to.  There is an interesting contrast between Eula, who’s quiet and broken, and Starla, who seems to be really spunky.  Their characters, like so many of the other characters in the book, were well-rounded and memorable. From Starla’s grandma to her mom to Miss Washington…there’s certainly an assortment of characters who seem to fit into this period so well.   

It is a great coming-of-age story, and I like seeing Starla’s journey to Nashville and realizing that her image of her mother is not who her mother really is.  I really liked seeing her grow and want to make a difference.

I liked the setting and how authentic it felt.  I really felt like Crandall captured everything that was going on.

Final Thoughts:

Whistling Past The Graveyard was an enjoyable read, and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Eula and Starla.  It’s a nice addition to the coming-of-age stories set in the South in the 1960’s.  I didn’t love it, but I did like it.  Whistling Past The Graveyard gets 3 stars.


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