Whistling past the graveyard

Susan Crandall

Book - 2013

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FICTION/Crandall Susan
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1st Floor FICTION/Crandall Susan Due Jun 11, 2022
New York : Gallery Books 2013.
First Gallery Books hardcover edition
Physical Description
308 pages ; 24 cm
Main Author
Susan Crandall (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The South on the eve of the civil rights movement, as seen through the eyes of this novel's plucky nine-year-old narrator. Starla Claudelle lives in Mississippi with her stern grandma. Her daddy is away working on an oil rig. Her mama has gone to Nashville to be a star, so Starla decides to head there when she gets herself in trouble one too many times. She's offered a ride by a black woman named Eula, who has with her a white baby found abandoned on the steps of a church. Eula takes Starla and the baby home, but violence forces them back on the road with no money and a truck about to break down. During their long and sometimes perilous trip, Starla sees firsthand what it's like to be the wrong color in a segregated society, and her keen sense of injustice and need for love help her create a bond with Eula that transcends any barriers. It's not easy to keep such a young narrator convincing for more than 300 pages, and for the most part, author Crandall manages it well. Readers will take to Starla and be caught up in her story. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The child of teenage parents, nine-year-old Starla is being raised by fierce grandmother Mamie, who's worried that Starla will turn out like her no-good mother, off in Nashville trying to become a star. When Starla runs away, worried that she will be punished for an infraction, she's offered a ride by a black woman who's herself on the run. The result: Starla comes to understand what segregation looks like in the Deep South, circa 1963. From a RITA Award winner; another novel pushed at ALA Midwinter. [Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Crandall's (Pitch Black; Magnolia Sky) latest novel features the tender tale of a plucky nine-year-old narrator in 1963 Mississippi. While Starla Claudelle's teenage mother is pursuing the ghosts of fame and fortune in Nashville with her boyfriend of the week, Starla's father keeps in touch through a monthly check and occasional visits. Every time she misbehaves, her caretaker grandmother warns Starla that she will become like her "no account" mother. Fearing that her grandmother will make good on her threats of reform school, Starla heads for Nashville to bring her family back together. Along the way, she meets Eula, an African American woman who suffers many heartaches at the hands of her abusive husband. On the journey to Nashville, Eula and Starla realize the true meaning of family, the strength we carry within ourselves, and the power of love to transform a life. VERDICT Crandall threads historical detail throughout the book as the struggles of the civil rights movement are vividly portrayed through Eula's difficulties as well as those of minor characters. Although the novel lacks the freshness of Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, Crandall's young narrator captures the reader's heart, and fans of those books may enjoy this title. [See Prepub Alert 1/25/13.]—Julia M. Reffner, Fairport, NY [Page 95]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Known for her romantic suspense novels, Crandall takes a fumbling step into book club–style women's fiction with a derivative, if well-intentioned, Civil Rights–era bildungsroman. Stubborn, sassy, nine-year-old Starla Jane Claudelle lives with her grandmother Mamie in smalltown Mississippi. Her father works on an oil rig and her mother has been absent since Starla was three, seeking her fortune as a singer in Nashville. After a series of misbehaviors, Starla runs away, fearing her grandmother's discipline and hoping for a reunion with her mother. Along the way, she meets Eula, an African-American woman who has taken custody of a white baby, much to her abusive, alcoholic husband's dismay. Starla and Eula soon find themselves on the run together, dodging one-dimensional racists and receiving assistance from wise and accepting African-Americans. Starla's fiery independence makes her a likeable narrator, which compensates somewhat for the underdeveloped adult characters and unbelievable plot points. While Starla's story lacks the elegance of The Secret Life of Bees or the emotional intensity of The Dry Grass of August, fans of simple feel-good coming-of-age tales set in the 1960s such as Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will enjoy the ride. Agent: Jennifer Schober, Spencerhill. (July) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Fleeing her strict grandmother's home in 1963 Mississippi, 9-year-old Starla Claudelle becomes an unlikely companion to an African-American woman at whose side she learns harsh lessons about period segregation and family. By the RITA-winning author of Back Roads. 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Fleeing her strict grandmother's home in 1963 Mississippi, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle becomes an unlikely companion to an African-American woman at whose side she learns harsh lessons about segregation and family.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip. In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother's Mississippi home. Starla hasn't seen her momma since she was three'that's when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla's daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of 'Lord, give me strength," is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla's life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is'as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.