“My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fears, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes.” – Starla
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is one of those books that changes your heart and gives you a view of America’s south in 1963 through the eyes of a child. The story begins with a child and follows her throughout a life altering journey. Starla is a feisty nine-year old, who states her mind and continually challenges authority. She is being raised by her grandmother and father because her mother has gone to Nashville to become a famous singer. Her grandmother rules with a strict hand and Starla fights back against her rule every chance she is given. Starla quickly decides to flee town to escape her grandmother and to reunite with her mother because she believes that her mother is the only one who loves her. We eventually find out her mother’s true character later on in the story.
Starla is found on the roadside by a black woman that is currently caring for a white baby that she has taken from a church’s front step. Eula and Starla continue on a journey towards Nashville that is briefly halted by Eula’s abusive husband, however they eventually make it to Nashville to find Starla’s mother. This adventure brings Starla face to face with race relations, abuse, and murder.
This book is unique because writers normally do not decide to depict the tension in the American South at that time through the eyes of a child. The only faults that can be found in this book are some of the side stories that the writer introduces. For example, the story of the white baby that Eula has stolen seems to just fizzle out at the end. Overall this book is well written and a page turner to the end. Some readers may even identify with Starla because they also grew up at this time in the South. For those of us that weren’t alive during those times, this book gives an authentic view of the race relations of the South at that time.
Formats available: Book, Large Print
Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch