A character driven novel, Whistling Past the Graveyard is written by Susan Crandall, narrated by Amy Ruminate, 11.5 hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format. Released in 2013 by Dreamscape Media.
A coming of age tale based in 1963 rural Mississippi. The violence of racism is a main plot point; blacks and whites fear and hate each other. This is an era of segregation – in schools, grocery stores, water fountains, etc. A time of lynchings, KKK fears, burning of black churches. In this vitriolic setting is Starla, a 9 year old white girl who runs away from an unhappy life with her grandmother. Starla is picked up, rescued, on a country road by Eula, a black woman with a white baby.
Get used to Starla being stubborn, selfish, disobedient, and thoughtless. Starla is child with a personality that makes her an unlikeable protagonist. The author clearly intends for her to be a sympathetic character, but has created a self-absorbed, obnoxious brat instead. Confronted with situations that provide opportunity, Starla always picks the wrong road – trouble finds her. Starla’s redeeming factor is an obsessive need to reach her mother in Nashville, naively believing that the woman who abandoned her as an infant will reunite with her father and they’ll all live happily-ever-after.
The author shines in conveying the cultural flavor of the time, both with regard to racism and local colloquy. The book is riddled with sage wisdom. A bit preachy at times with ‘Thank-you baby Jesus.’ sprinkled about a few too many times for my taste. In my opinion, the behavior of the lead character is over-the-top and unrealistic. But that’s just me, you may find it peachy.
Narration is excellent. Timing, accents, inflections, etc., perfect. A sign of a good author is one that can evoke emotion from the reader. Well, Susan Crandall succeeded with this reader. I couldn’t stand the lead character. Ergo, it’s a good book. Convoluted, huh. But, there it is.