Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

It is impossible to forget the title of this book, as the narrator repeats it at least twenty-seven times throughout Whistling Past the Graveyard. The phrase refers to the act of distracting yourself from uncomfortable circumstances by doing something pleasant, or fixating on sunnier pastures. If asked to use the phrase in a sentence, I would say: “To get through Whistling Past the Graveyard, I was forced to whistle past the graveyard. Haha, I am so darn witty.

This novel chronicles the two-week-long journey of Starla Claudelle, a nine year old living in the South in the early ’60s. Raised by her father and grandmother, Starla decides to run away to Nashville, where her mother moved years ago to become a country music star. Starla accepts a ride from a black woman (Eula) harboring a white baby, and the two set off on an adventure fraught with racism, life lessons, etc.

This is one of the few books I have read in which both white and black characters are victims or racism. That being said, the end result is a bit too tidy when considering the severity of race relations at the time. SPOILER ALERT: Eula is guilty of murdering her husband and taking a white baby from a church stoop, but in the end she faces no legal consequences. Sure, her motives are pure enough, but I doubt that would have been taken into account in 1960s Tennessee.

I hate these happy-ending, saptastic novels – they should exist as their own genre so that I would know to stay away from them. Whistling Past the Graveyard feels unrealistic, and the narration often seems beyond the capacity of the adolescent that they represent.

Someone please recommend a worthwhile read. Do solid, good books still exist?

Previously posted on DaneTrain.com