Whistling Past the Graveyard
Susan Crandall (Adult Fiction)
“Whistling past the graveyard. That’s what Daddy called it when you did something to keep your mind off your most worstest fear…”
Starla Claudelle is nine and growing up in 1963 Mississippi. At the age of three, she is abandoned by her mother, who is busy chasing dreams of country music stardom in Nashville. Her father works months on end on an oil rig in the Gulf, which leaves the responsibility of her care and upbringing to her strict and overbearing paternal grandmother, Mamie. On the fourth of July, Starla decides to run away from home—convinced that if she locates her mother, she will have a real family once again. Along the way, she gets a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white infant. Together, they embark on an extraordinary road trip that will change both of their lives forever.
Not since Francie Nolan (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith) have I delighted in a literary heroine so thoroughly. Starla is sassy, plucky, loyal, reckless, and fearless. Because of her youth and naiveté, she often makes decisions based on her heart rather than her head, ultimately leading her into some precarious situations. However, Starla’s spunk and spirit are endearing and allow the reader to readily forgive her of these seemingly foolish transgressions. The story has a nice and steady pace, the main characters have heart, and Starla’s narration is full of honesty, humor, and charm. A truly enjoyable read that will undoubtedly find a spot on our Best Of list at the end of the year.