I downloaded this audiobook thinking it would be fairly light material. After all, the main character is a nine year old girl. I was wrong, to say the least.
“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.”
Set in 1963, Whistling Past the Graveyard stars Starla Claudelle, whose father works on an oil rig and whose mother ran off years ago to be famous in Nashville. Starla lives with her mean grandmother, who’s hell-bent on turning Starla into a lady. After an altercation on the 4th of July, Starla runs away from home to find her mother. She gets picked up by a black woman named Eula, who has a white baby in her car. And of course, both of their lives change….forever!
I really thought this would be kind of sappy, as the bratty white girl learns about what it’s like to be a black woman in 1963. Now, Starla does learn some lessons. But this book goes way further than, Oh Eula has drink from another water fountain. No, this book contains a shocking amount of violence (against Starla, Eula and some other characters), for such a cutesy cover. As Eula reveals more about her past, and Starla discovers more about her own family — some pretty big shocks along the way. It all ends up making for a really good book — way better than I expected. Starla and Eula make a wonderful team, and some of the other characters (Miss Cyrena!) just melted me. Crandall also does a good job ending it, as the further you get into the book, the more you wonder how it can end even semi-happily.
P.S. I sometimes stop reading a book after the first page or two if the dialogue is written all folksy or country. It makes me crazy. Not that I don’t like that kind of accent — hell, I live in Texas — but the way it’s written out sometimes just bugs. However, it apparently works pretty well in an audio version — or it did here, at least. Starla’s dialogue and narration both contained quite a lot of G-dropping, but it flows well when spoken aloud.