Published July 2nd 2013 by Gallery Books | 307 pages
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.
The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.
When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.
As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.
Review: 4 stars
“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. But it’s not weak, like hidin’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on.”
This is an incredibly moving story that points out the injustices for African American’s in Southern America during the 1960’s. It follows a young and feisty girl named Starla Claudelle who runs away from her home in Cayuga, Mississippi to find her mother in Nashville. On her journey she meets a coloured woman named Eula, and together they embark on a pretty epic journey. Throughout the journey Starla is confronted with the harsh realities of racial discrimination in Mississippi, especially the prejudices directed at both Starla and Eula for traveling together.
I adored Starla as the protagonist. She is such a mischievous, feisty, and sassy little girl! I thought her voice was very authentic; everything was so black and white, good or bad to her and she had a naive innocence that just got to me. I’m not used to reading from the point of view of a nine-year old but I thought that the author did a great job! I really found myself getting wrapped up in Starla’s adventure. Although I think every character was done spectacularly!
Whistling Past the Graveyard is different from any other new release I’ve read this year. It’s a beautiful story that I can definitely see becoming a classic and being taught in schools one day. It’s a really enjoyable book that people of all ages would love, particularly if you enjoyed stories like The Help or To Kill A Mockingbird. People, I would definitely check this one out!
Also side-note: I LOVE this cover!!
I received this copy from Gallery Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!