Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Rating – 5 stars

How would you define courage ? Would you call it facing your worst fears and defeating them, would you brand it as taking every blow that comes along your way with a stride that is accompanied by a quiet dignity or would you call it owning up to your mistakes and being ready to face the consequences for them no matter what. It’s perhaps what little Starla Claudelle and Eula Littleton are about to find out. Sometimes one simple question has many answers or perhaps a single answer but multiple options to pick from – all of which are correct given their own circumstances and reasons.

On a run from her home to escape her draconian Mamie, nine and a half-year old Starla meets Eula, a black woman, as she flees her hometown of Cayuga Springs. Their timing could not have been any better or worse considering its the tumultuous period which witnessed the uprising of the Civil Rights movement.

Starla is being raised by her paternal grandmother while her dad works in Gulf and has plans to meet her momma someday who is based in Nashville. She believes her mom is a famous singer however that is anything but the truth. Though she kept thinking about running away, Starla never was prepared for what it meant when it finally happens. Being grounded on the 4th of July and thinking she may be forcefully made to attend reform school Starla makes a run without a second thought on her mind. She thinks her Mamie will be angry but relieved to finally have her out of her hair and her Dad though worried will calm down once she calls him up.

Meanwhile Eula has troubles of her own – not being able to have kids and an abusive husband to name a few. Their chance encounter connects these two in a way none of them envisioned, these total strangers become each other’ anchors, each other’ saviors as the book progresses on.

I have of course read books which tackled racism before but not many books can claim to have moved me in the way this one did. The journey that Starla and Eula take leaves them both richer by experience.

The prose of this book is so enchanting that it sucks you in so completely. Not even a chapter into the book and I could feel it in my bones I was gonna love this one. Little Starla whose voice narrates the book is officially now among my favorite child characters ever. I am in love with her. Wise beyond her years, yet naïve to a fault at times she wins you over in no time. Her little ticks, her kind heart and her bravery leave you with no choice but to adore this child. She truly is one of the finest characters I have ever read. She reminded me of Harper Lee’ Scout.

What particularly appealed to me was though the book paints characters as good and bad since it is from a child’ POV; in all its brutal honesty it has grey characters. People aren’t particularly nasty out of spite or so idly good they are boring pushovers – they are real. Each of them has reasons for acting the way they do; though not always right or justifiable. But isn’t that the bottom line – people make mistakes. It doesn’t make anyone vile or evil or terrible. It just makes them human. Even Starla’ mamie, who according to her is horrible to her (to be honest somewhat is) has a reason for her attitude.

I so wish I had found the time to read this a bit earlier, having received a copy of this book almost a month in advance, but life got in the way sadly.

Recommended to the fans of ’To kill a mockingbird’.

Netgalley had provided me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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