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.
©2013 Susan Crandall (P)2013 Dreamscape Media, LLC
"Starla's fiery independence makes her a likable narrator." (Publishers Weekly)
"It's not easy to keep such a young narrator convincing for more than 300 pages.... Readers will take to Starla and be caught up in her story." (Booklist)
"A coming-of-age story as well as a luminous portrait of courage and the bonds of friendship.... Susan Crandall tells young Starla's story with pitch-perfect tone, evoking 1963 Mississippi and its struggles with a deft hand. I laughed and cried at Starla's keen observances of life and family and the sometimes blurred edges of justice. Like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Whistling Past the Graveyard is destined to become a classic." (Karen White, New York Times best-selling author)
"Here's the thing about gifts." Eula stopped buttering her toast and looked straight at me. "A body don't know how many the good Lord tucked inside them, until the time is right. I reckon a person could go a whole life and not know. That why you got to try lots of things; as many as you can. Experiment."
These are the words of Eula, a black woman who stops to pick up a precocious, feisty, red-headed run away little girl in Mississippi, as the girl tries to escape her overly strict grandmother. The sixties was not an easy time to be a black woman in Mississippi. Yet, despite hardship, Eula is full of quiet wisdom and compassion. Her wonderful insights pepper the chapters of this book.
If Eula's wisdom peppers the book, then the saltiness comes from Starla, the red-headed and VERY feisty run away, who is the voice of this story.
Many times Starla's "leap before looking" approach to life gets her into deep trouble - with sometimes sad and sometimes hilarious results. Watching her question and break the rules, over and over again, is like sitting across the table with a child who's cup of milk is right on the edge of the table. You are telling the child - move your cup - but they don't understand and end up knocking the milk all over the floor. You can see it coming a long ways in advance! The same happens in this book repeatedly. There is no ill intent on Starla's part, but a strong will paired with charming naivety. This combination of character traits allows Starla to see past the racism she has been taught, to the goodness of the people around her.
I really enjoyed the book and will look for others by this author.
What a wonderful sweet coming of age story. With the flavor of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, I was hanging on each and every twist and turn throughout this book. More so than many detective novels I read this year that were advertised as thrillers.
Set in Mississippi in 1963 Starla lives with her strict grandmother. She thinks she has found a greener pasture only to find there is no place like home. The characters are endearing, spirited and complex. The women are strong, the children are gutsy and the best men are those that are tender and thoughtful. The author relays a time and feeling in a way that transforms the reader to a different age.
Amy Rubinate is the one with the pitch perfect tone. I think she did a fabulous job with all the characters.
I enjoyed each and every hour and minute.
Starla's personality and how her character grew throughout the story.
The Help, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, The Kitchen House. Similar settings and issues but a unique story.
SPOILER ALERT: when Porter stood up to and broke free of Mamie. Creating change for Starla and himself.
They all had been through so much. but they never lost hope and things turned out ok towards the end. So many times in the book when th ings were near impossible and they never lost their faith or hope. So hard to pick just one moment.
This was an amazing story with entertaining characters. At times it was difficult to read. But as I said these people never lost hope. worthy of a reread imo. I am hoping to see more from Me Crandall and Starla. I highly recommend this
This book was chosen as our bookclub read for the month. I must say I really enjoyed the book. The narrator did an excellent job. Loved the characters, especially the relationship between Starla and Eula. Loved the excitement of this journey the two of them had to travel. The faith and hope these two character had, not to give up. I just loved it
Life's good when I am listening to a great book.
This a great adventure story reminiscent of Huck Finn with a female heroine. I just hated to see the story end. The main two characters become two unlikely friends and each adds to the other's life in surprising ways. The storyline would be appropriate for young adults and adults alike with lessons to learn about parenting, racism, friendships, and the importance of determination and dedication. The writing flows beautifully and as I listened I was able to envision each scenario and live the adventures. I highly recommend this book. The reader was perfect.
I would listen to this book again because it tells about a time that seems like yesterday. Nine year old Starla lives with her Mamie because her daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf. Her momma has gone to Nashville to be a famous singer. A lot happens when Starla decides to go find her momma and gets picked up by a woman named Eula.
The performance is spot on and the characters are so real that I imagine people go looking for them in Cayuga Springs. I look forward to more from this author.
When Starla tells her adventures near the end of the story.
There were many.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
I purchased this book as I don't think I could resist the title. It just sounded like it would be good and it really was!
The narrator is a 9-going-on-11-year-old girl, Starla. So anyone who prefers not to listen to child-oriented or YA-like literature, you needn't go any further.
For the rest of you, it could be a very fun and enjoyable listen like it was for me. The narration was perfection and Amy Rubinate did a wonderful job with the different voices and accents. She's a keeper.
So, we have a young, precocious-beyond-her-years young girl living in Mississippi during the 1960's amidst all the racial unrest. The time frame adds tension and credibility to the story and removes it from the realm of chick-lit. Starla's mother abandoned her when she was a baby and her father works on an oil rig, so it has been arranged that she be raised by her grandmother, "Mamie". So far so good--but not really. Mamie and Starla do not get along and it appears Starla is a grave imposition in her grandmother's life. Which is why our precocious, high-maintenance, love-starved girl sets off for Nashville to find her mother, whom she believes is a famous country singer. She is sure she can bring her lost little family happily back together again.
Well, Starla could not make this long journey on her own and this is where Eula comes into the story. Eula is a childless, unhappily married "black" woman whose life is unalterably changed by the little, feisty "white" girl. Actually, most of the characters in the story have their lives dramatically altered by Starla's actions.
This is not a totally perfect story, as it is a tad predictable. But it IS fiction and if I want totally realistic unpredictability, I head over toward non-fiction. I want a degree of credibility in a story, but I also want to enjoy it and perhaps have some FUN. Sorry. I am not sure why I feel the need to digress and defend myself.
Bottom line is, I became immersed in this story and miss the characters a bunch now that it is over. I want to recommend this book which comes flavored with "The Help" but has its very own personality.
Get it and enjoy!
A character driven novel, Whistling Past the Graveyard is written by Susan Crandall, narrated by Amy Ruminate, 11.5 hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Released in 2013 by Dreamscape Media.
A coming of age tale based in 1963 rural Mississippi. The violence of racism is a main plot point; blacks and whites fear and hate each other. This is an era of segregation - in schools, grocery stores, water fountains, etc. A time of lynchings, KKK fears, burning of black churches. In this vitriolic setting is Starla, a 9 year old white girl who runs away from an unhappy life with her grandmother. Starla is picked up, rescued, on a country road by Eula, a black woman with a white baby.
Get used to Starla being stubborn, selfish, disobedient, and thoughtless. Starla is child with a personality that makes her an unlikeable protagonist. The author clearly intends for her to be a sympathetic character, but has created a self-absorbed, obnoxious brat instead. Confronted with situations that provide opportunity, Starla always picks the wrong road - trouble finds her. Starla's redeeming factor is an obsessive need to reach her mother in Nashville, naively believing that the woman who abandoned her as an infant will reunite with her father and they’ll all live happily-ever-after.
The author shines in conveying the cultural flavor of the time, both with regard to racism and local colloquy. The book is riddled with sage wisdom. A bit preachy at times with ‘Thank-you baby Jesus.’ sprinkled about a few too many times for my taste. In my opinion, the behavior of the lead character is over-the-top and unrealistic. But that’s just me, you may find it peachy.
Narration is excellent. Timing, accents, inflections, etc., perfect. A sign of a good author is one that can evoke emotion from the reader. Well, Susan Crandall succeeded with this reader. I couldn’t stand the lead character. Ergo, it’s a good book. Convoluted, huh. But, there it is.
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
Teen (YA) fiction is now one of my favorite genres. Whistling Past the Graveyard is an superb example of the genre. I recommend it highly.
Mainly I want to make some comments about the narrator, Amy Rubinate. This is the first audiobook that I have heard her narrate. Her performance is absolutely flawless. Her voice range is incredible. She handles the range of accents with precision.
I try not to give away plots in my reviews, but will deviate some here. The setting is in Mississippi in 1963 during the civil rights movement. The story is about a headstrong 9 year old girl who runs away from her abusive grandmother. She soon finds herself in a moving motherly relationship with a black lady. There is much, much more to this excellent novel.
Listen to about four audio books a months. Never without one.
I chose this book because the young narrator was born the same year I was, 1953. The story took place in 1963. I was raised in an all white rural town in Minnesota, totally ignorant of issues between the black and white in Mississippi. Not a five star book like The Help, but a solid 4 star. If you are looking for a book about racial issues in the 60's, relationships and the value of family-with the added bonus of a feisty ten year old narrator, you are sure to enjoy this audiobook.
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