Coming of Age in the South in 1963 | Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

by: Susan Crandall
Published: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster
Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)
Source: NetGalley


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, (read more here) . . .

(Synopsis from Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

Not only did the cover capture my attention, the synopsis described a setting in the South in the 1960s, a time in history I cannot forget. No one else who lived through it can forget it either.

Starla Claudelle’s coming of age is different from any coming of age any one of us might have experienced. Running away from home to avoid her grandmother’s punishments, Starla finds herself traveling the road with a black woman, Eula, who has a white baby with her, having supposedly found the child on the church steps.

To make bad matters worse it’s 1963, and it’s a dangerous time to be a white child seen in the “custody” of a black woman. Starla receives an education better than any school could offer her. Her eyes witness the world of prejudice and race relations in a way the rest of us growing up in the South in the 1960s never saw.

Starla’s story is told with tenderness, grace and wisdom by Susan Crandall. Crandall has a creative hand in developing her characters. They are so real you feel as if you’ve known them a long time. The relationships she develops between her characters are palpable and filled with emotion. Crandall, an award-winning author, most likely has an award waiting for her after taking Starla Claudelle on the journey of a lifetime.

My Recommendation: 

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Southern fiction, coming of age stories, and the beauty of love growing out of respect, security and truth, no matter the color of your skin nor the blood you carry in your veins.

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Meet the Author:

Susan Crandall (Source: Goodreads)

Susan Crandall
(Source: Goodreads)

BACK ROADS was Susan Crandall’s first solo work, her first published work, and her first award winning novel, winning a RITA for Best First Book and two National Reader’s Choice Awards.

Susan grew up in a small Indiana town, married a guy from that town, and then moved to Chicago for a while. She is pleased to say that she has been back in her hometown for many years and plans to stay. She and her husband have two grown children. “They make me proud every day,” Susan glows. “My son, who has the heart of a poet, is also a writer. My daughter, who is both beautiful and brilliant, is about to take her first steps into the working world of science.”

For more on Susan Crandall, visit her website.

(Source for Bio: Goodreads)

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I received a copy of Whistling Past the Graveyard from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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NEXT REVIEW: We’ll take a look at Marion Elizabeth Witte’s book, Little Madhouse on the Prairie. Marion shares a story of strength and courage in her memoir. Hoping to see you here on Tuesday, September 17th.


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