Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Categories: Coming of Age, Historical

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.
Susan Crandall

My Thoughts:

“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.”

I’ve found a new narrator to love. Starla Claudelle is sassy, funny, and adorable. When she teams up with Eula Littleton it’s a match made in literary heaven. What they learn from one another is immeasurable. They both start out a little broken and more than a little naive

The time period and setting in Whistling Past the Graveyard is a gold mine. 1963 Mississippi was ripe for change and simmering with racial tension. I’ve seen this book compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and I can understand why. Crandall handles the issues of the time with potent sensitivity.

Whistling Past the Graveyard made me laugh and put a lump in my throat more than once. I found it to be charming, powerful, and superbly written.

Get your hands on a copy. Definitely.


54 thoughts on “Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

  1. Oooh I'd pondered taking an ARC of this and I didn't because I thought I'd taken on too many. Now I shall curse myself as I purchase it for regular price. Curses!


  2. I remember looking this one up when you had it on your \”It's Monday\” post. Now that I know it's as good as it sounded, I will definitely scoop it up!


  3. I'd read it for the time period and setting alone! I love that cover too. Oh, and I like sassy when it's not one my kids giving it to me. LOL. I think I'd like Starla.


  4. I am putting this right on my wishlist! I love stories set in that era (I'm 50-something years old so unfortunately I lived through some of that) and this looks like it has an interesting plot. I'd like to recommend a book set in the '50s, but perhaps with a similar plot: The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. Thanks, as always, for sharing.


  5. Do you ever choose whether to read or listen to a book based on the narrator? I've always just picked books to listen to based on what I found at the library but never thought to look for the audio rather than the book because of a great narrator. I should probably start keeping a list of the great narrators I read about!


  6. Glad to see you enjoyed this one. One of my favorites of the year so far. And to think I only requested it because of the cover!


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