(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Starla Claudelle has already been on restriction twice since school let out. If her Mamie finds her sneaking out of the house on the Fourth of July, the 9-year-old will surely be grounded for life. Not willing to risk that fate, Starla makes good on the threat she's been taunting her grandmother with for years—she runs away. She can't appeal to her father, who works on an oil rig in the Gulf. He'd side with his mother anyway. That leaves Starla's mom, who left six years ago to pursue a singing career in Nashville. Surely, she's a rich, famous crooner by now, one who will graciously welcome home her long-lost daughter.
Before she gets anywhere close to Nashville, Starla is picked up by Eula, a black maid traveling with a white baby. Little James isn't the only thing Eula's hiding. Pretty soon, all three of them are on the run, hoping to find safety in Tennessee. Along the way, they'll encounter plenty of trouble, redemption, and, maybe, a little of the salvation of which all of them are in need. Marked by adventure, hardship, heartache, and joy, it's a road trip that will forever change Starla's life.
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is a warm Southern novel set in 1963 that explores the many meanings of family. Starla is a bright spitfire of a girl, a mischievous heroine who's pretty much irresistible. Her spot-on narration, plus an engrossing plot make this novel an enjoyable read. Although the story brings up some hard issues, for the most part Whistling Past the Graveyard is an upbeat, heartwarming tale that will appeal to anyone who enjoys family dramas with a side of Southern.
(Readalikes: Reminded me of Signed, Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams and The Help by Kathryn Stockett)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, and disturbing themes (child abuse, racism, attempted rape, etc.)
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Whistling Past the Graveyard at Target with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.