Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Summary:
Whistling past the graveyard . That’s what Daddy called it when you did something to keep your mind off your most worstest fear. . . . In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

My take: 3 looks
First and foremost, I adored Eula, the black woman. She was complex, multi-dimensional and evolved nicely throughout the story. While the book is told from Starla’s point of view, the story is centered around her relationship with Eula.

With that said, Starla got on my last dead nerve. I felt that Crandall was a little heavy-handed with Starla’s rebellion, disobedience, and lack of self-control. Time after time after time, she put others at risk doing exactly what she had been warned not to do, and seemed only marginally regretful when her actions came full circle. While I think Crandall tried to have her maturity evolve over the course of the story, it was too little, too late for me. I got to the point where I thought, “If Starla does that, she deserves what she gets,” killing my sympathy for this character.

The fact that it was told from Starla’s point of view raises the comparison of Scout from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. That is where the comparison ends. Scout is painted with a realistic brush, making rash decisions occasionally, and learning from them. She seems a typical young girl, struggling with what adults expect of her, and what she wants to do. Starla, on the other had, was a frustrating character who didn’t seem to learn from her mistakes, even when she realized (too late, always) others would be hurt.

Very fast-paced story, a bit predictable and milquetoast. However, it is a good summer book, and won’t bog you down.

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