If the only flying circus you know is Monty Python’s, then Crandall’s nostalgic recreation of the heyday of the barnstorming stunt pilots who crisscrossed the U.S. in the 1920s will come as an entertaining surprise. Gil Gilroy, a former WWI flyer, Cora Haviland, a penniless heiress, and Henry Schuler, a teenage orphan fleeing a crime back in his native Indiana, crash into one another—quite literally—at a rural crossroads and eventually transform themselves into an act, traveling from town to town, with Gus doing stunts in his Curtiss Jenny biplane, Cora doing stunts on her motorcycle, and Henry acting as their mechanic. The only thing they have in common is a past they are all trying to escape. Things go along fine until Henry sees Gus and Cora kissing and is blindsided with jealousy. The three of them up the ante and join an actual flying show of aero-acrobats, in which Cora becomes a wing-walker, constantly trying to devise more and more dangerous stunts to attract larger crowds to the show. Cora eventually graduates to air racer, but the combined secrets from their past threaten to destroy their future together. All too often, the drama in the skies is overshadowed by the melodrama on the ground. Despite this, Gil, Cora, and Henry make for a sturdy romantic trio, and this old-fashioned novel plays like a refreshed mash-up of William Faulkner’s Pylon and the 1970s Robert Redford vehicle The Great Waldo Pepper. (July)
I usually try to make my book picks from some of the lesser-knowns — it’s easy to find out about a bestseller ( I do know many of my picks have gone on to become bestsellers, but hey). I’m making an exception for this fabulous bestseller. I’ve always enjoyed Liane Moriarty’s writing, but this one…just wow!
In a nutshell: Three very different women, bound by friendship forged in their children’s grade school, whose lives are altered when someone ends up dead at a fundraising “trivia night” at the school. Not quite a who-done-it (if “it” was actually done), this story digs deep into the social issues that bind as well as divide in our complicated, no-holds-barred world of child rearing.
The fact that I ignored most, if not all, of my real life duties in order to read this book, says it all. Loved the characters. Loved the humor, sarcasm and wit. The pacing was perfect.
The biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.
I rate this a “must read.”
Well, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book–so much that I forgot to be a critical thinking writer in the process. The characters were just edgy enough, the setting was absolutely rooted in reality, and the heavy subject matter was handled with enough upbeat attitude to prevent it from being a book “about death.” Don’t let the fact that one of the main characters is on a quest to end his life (an active young man now a quadriplegic trapped in a motorized wheelchair) to allow you to miss the wonderful, life-affirming journey of the heroine.
I’ve previously said how I’m not too keen on historical fiction. And every time I say that, I find a book that makes me change my mind. Whistling Past the Graveyard is a thought-provoking, emotional, witty novel set in the American Deep South in 1963.
Yes this book is about racism in 1960’s America. But it is also a coming-of-age story, about family and friendship. It also contains one of the most interesting POV’s in the genre, Starla, a nine-year-old, white girl. Being written from a child’s point of view, you may think that the writing would be too simplistic to enjoy, but Starla was full of personality. Her innocent view on the world was fascinating to see, and the comparisons to how she lived and the way the African-American’s did really highlighted the truth of the situation.
The story follows Starla, who lives in Mississippi with her grandmother. Starla is fed up with her grandmother and wants to run away to Nashville to live with her mother. So she does exactly that. On her way she has a run in with Eula, a black lady who stole a white baby. And so they continue on their road trip together.
The characters were wonderful. Each had very strong, evocative voices. Starla was fiery and sassy, always questioning and never afraid. Eula perfectly contrasted with Starla, calm and stable, and was able to care for her in a way Starla never had before. Also, her background story was heart-breaking. But most important was the relationship that developed between them. Eula and Starla needed each other. Each had their lessons to teach to the other, and the transformation that happened was due to each other. At the heart of it, Whistling Past the Graveyard was about how friendship transcends the colour of skin and age.
Whistling Past the Graveyard had me on the edge of my seat. At some points it was so intense that I had to put the book down and think about what I had just read. There were so many strong messages in the book, but it was never in a preachy way. But I wouldn’t call it a dark novel. At some points it was funny, witty, and plain entertaining. It was the balance between grittiness and fun which made it so hard-hitting and memorable.
Overall: Even if you don’t like historical novels, I would recommend this to you. Whistling Past the Graveyard will make you think about life and race, and more incredibly it’ll come from the believable perspective of a nine-year old.
Honestly I hesitated choosing this book. I expected a courtroom drama (I rarely choose that kind of story, preferring books with deep character development). I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover that listening to this story of a district attorney, Andy Barber, family man, all round good guy whose town is rocked by a murdered teen to be exactly my kind of book: complicated characters not overpowered by the plot.
Andy Barber lives in a New England town where people come from the cities to raise their children in a safer environment. This illusion is shattered one morning when the body of a boy is discovered in a park. Andy is one of the first on the scene; a fact that will be a huge detriment later when his only child, Jacob, is charged with the murder.
All through this book I vacillated: he did it, he didn’t do it, he did it, of course he didn’t do it, well maybe…. It was a real roller coaster ride whose biggest plunge doesn’t come until the end.
This is so much more than a murder mystery, more than a legal drama. Each character in this book is finely drawn, has a backstory that is as powerful as their current dilemma. This is a story about family and about how far you’re willing to go to protect your own.
With her father working on oil rigs for weeks or months at a time, 9-year-old Starla Claudelle is mostly raised by her grandmother Mamie. The arrangement, however, is less than ideal. As much as Mamie loves her granddaughter, she still harbors a grudge against the girl’s mother Lulu.
Lulu left her family for a shot at stardom in Nashville six years prior, leaving Starla to bear the brunt of the grudge. Mamie blames Lulu for everything “wrong” with Starla, from what she considers a trampy first name to a temper prone to boil over.
Mamie is hellbent on fixing every bit of it. And when Starla resists changing her name or minding increasingly strict rules, Mamie ratchets them up all the more. She never wants Starla to turn out like her no good mother.
Whistling Past The Graveyard is a richly drawn Southern yarn about character.
When the tension between the two eventually comes to a head, Starla decides to run away rather than being sent to reform school. So she leaves everything that she knows behind in favor of a dreamy reunion with her famous mother somewhere in Nashville.
For the first few hours, Starla feels as liberated as the Fourth of July. But in the next few hours, she slowly starts to rethink her choice. With the hot sun beating down on her and not a drop to drink, Starla realizes the folly of an unplanned escape. She’s in over her head, with no hope on the road.
Perhaps that’s why Starla does the unthinkable when the first truck she has seen in miles stops right beside her. She accepts a drink from a black woman who is driving it. And then, she accepts a short ride down the lonely country road. Except, the ride is neither short nor lonely. Once in the cab, Starla learns that the woman has given refuse to a white baby too.
From the moment Starla climbs into the cab, none of their lives will ever be the same. The three of them will risk life and limb as they traverse the racially divided South in the 1960s. Their only assets? Starla is strong willed and Eula is impossibly pragmatic. And despite being from different worlds, they eventually learn to lean on and trust each other to survive.
“I believe we’ve come a long way in measuring one another based on our individual character and not our race,” says author Susan Crandall. “I understand we’re miles away from that pure goal, but trust that our humanity will continue to inch us closer.”
A few graphs about accidental author Susan Crandall.
Crandall never fancied becoming an author. She was a dental hygienist who loved books. As an avid reader, she fell in love with words just as much. She used to look up words just to see what they might mean.
Crandall’s passion might have ended there, but her life took a dramatic turn when she found out that her sister had taken to writing. Crandall volunteered to edit, and eventually co-authored four books with her. Ten years ago, Crandall published her first solo work and has continued to progress ever since.
The quiet and unassuming girl from small town Indiana has grown into an empathetic and award-winning writer. She is also the mother of two grown children, one of whom is also a writer. The other is pursuing a career in science.
Whistling Past The Graveyard By Susan Crandall Steals 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Although the seeds of the story had been developed nearly a year prior, Crandall had pushed the story aside in the hope of finishing another project. But then something happened. As the story of Starla became clearer and the other story a muddled mess, Crandall abandoned the original novel.
Instead, she decided to stop fighting herself and dedicated all her time to Whistling Past The Graveyard. It immediately felt right. It was the book she knew she was supposed to write. Anyone who reads it will think so too.
Other than giving Starla a wisdom and tenacity beyond her years, Whistling Past the Graveyard is a frightening, forgiving and freeing story of that is one part foolhardy and two parts courage. You can find Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall on Amazon. You can download it for iBooks or order the book from Barnes & Noble. The audiobook is narrated by Amy Rubinate, who lends even more credibility to the well-drawn heroine Starla.
I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since those long ago days before I started writing. He has a way of sweeping you up into whatever world he’s created, and 11/22/63 is no exception.
I’ve always loved scary movies, always been willing to follow a storyteller into dark and frightening places. Stephen King can make me believe. I adored THE STAND, THE TALISMAN, (showing I’m fearless when it comes to taking on long page count as well as subject matter) and the short story THE BODY. I admit a couple of his more recent novels lost me, but with 11/22/63 he won me back again. It’s an interesting amalgam of history, time travel, nostalgia, and of course, character study.
I read 11/22/63 on my Kindle, and although the novel weighs in at around 1000 pages, the page count never crossed my mind. It probably helped that I didn’t have to heft all 1000 when reading in bed, but the fact that Mr. King could keep me intrigued had a great deal to do with it. However, as I reflected back on this book once I’d finished reading it, there was one section I felt could have benefited from a little nip and tuck.
In 11/22/63 high school teacher, Jake Epping is drafted by an acquaintance of his who has found a “rabbit hole” to the past. Every time you emerge into the past, it’s exactly the same time on the same day in the same place (September, 1958) while present time never passes more than two minutes, no matter how long the sojourn to the past lasts. The friend’s mission to save JFK from his fatal encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald had been cut short by terminal cancer. He drafts Jake to complete the task. The plan had been to remove Oswald from the equation entirely. However, before acting Jake needed to be completely certain that Oswald acted alone.
Naturally, when you mess with the past, the future suffers unintended consequences. Jake is faced with choices that will affect the entire world, as he knew he would be. But he’s surprised by the personal choices he’s forced to make. All in all, it’s a complex and interesting glimpse into a possibility I’m glad we don’t have available to us.