Let's get that I absolutely LOVE this book out of the way. Whistling Past The Graveyard is a heartwarming, endearing coming of age story about a fiesty 9 year old girl who decides it's high time she flew the coop in an effort not to be sent to boarding school. It's the summer of 1963 in Cayuga Springs, the Fourth of July, and a pocket full of penny candy that puts the wheels in motion for a life-changing experience for two unsuspecting lives that intersect on an abandoned road.
Whistling Past The Graveyard is narrated by Starla who's often described by her grandmother Mamie as a girl who can't stay out of trouble. Starla's personality is as red as her hair and Mamie does not for a second allow Starla to forget that she's a stone's throw from being just like her mother. Mamie is probably one of the characters I like the least but it's probably also because I only have Starla's point of view in her assessment. Not long into Starla's jailbreak she meets Eula, a colored woman with a set of her own problems.
Susan Crandall does an excellent job at so many things in this novel such as character development, being true to the era, and all the things we love and hate about the south. Starla and Eula are an unlikely pair being their race differences as well as age differences. Starla is not afraid of anything and even when she is she doesn't back down. Eula on the other hand has been treated poorly her whole life. They both compliment and complete each other and give the other what they both need most. I love their relationship and readers will appreciate it as well. Crandall really captures what it friendship and family mean.
A lot of blurbs are comparing this novel to the bestseller The Help and I don't think that's a fair assessment. Not that this book isn't on the same level but because I find Whistling Past The Graveyard to be more true to the 60s than The Help. Crandall doesn't sacrifice the tension or danger of the 60s to make for a more sugar-coated, easier pill to swallow for the masses. There were moments I was on the edge of my seat hoping that things would be all right for our two heroines. The only similarities between the two works are the race of the narrators and the period they were written in.
I will say one last time I LOVE Whistling Past The Graveyard. It's about friendship, family, and seeing the just and unjust in life. I recommend this book to lovers of fiction and especially to those who love coming of age stories. Whistling Past The Graveyard reaffirms that in some cases, blood isn't thicker than water. *****