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.
Author: Susan Crandall
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Category: Historical Fiction
Release Date: 07/02/2013
Pages: 320 ISBN: 978-1476707723