Whistling Past the Graveyard is a captivating and thought-provoking novel written by author Susan Crandall. This gripping story takes place in the 1960s and follows the journey of a young girl named Starla Claudelle.

The Plot

The book revolves around Starla, a feisty and resilient nine-year-old girl who lives in Mississippi with her strict and overbearing grandmother. Dissatisfied with her confined life, Starla decides to run away to find her mother who left her when she was three years old.

As Starla embarks on her solo journey, she encounters Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Realizing that Eula is in danger due to racial tensions, Starla convinces her to take her along on the journey. Together, they embark on a road trip towards Nashville, Tennessee.

Throughout their adventure, the unlikely duo faces numerous challenges and obstacles, testing the limits of their strength and determination. The story also delves into the racial tensions and inequalities that were prevalent during the Civil Rights Movement, providing a thought-provoking backdrop.

Awards and Recognition

Whistling Past the Graveyard has garnered significant praise since its publication. It received the 2014 SIBA Fiction Book Award and was a finalist for the prestigious Townsend Prize for Fiction. The novel has also received rave reviews from acclaimed authors and critics alike.

Susan Crandall’s brilliant storytelling and her ability to capture the essence of the time period have made Whistling Past the Graveyard a favorite among readers and critics alike.

Key Characters

Starla Claudelle

Starla Claudelle is the fearless and determined protagonist of the story. Her resilient spirit and unwavering belief in finding her mother make her a captivating character.


Eula is a strong and brave black woman who takes Starla under her wing, becoming her protector and guide. Together, they form a powerful bond as they navigate their way through the challenges they face.

Grandma Mamie

Grandma Mamie is Starla’s strict grandmother, who tries to keep her under control and prevent her from finding her mother. Her character adds depth and tension to the story.

Judge Emmett Benton

Judge Emmett Benton is a significant character who plays a crucial role in the story. He is an influential figure who helps shape Starla’s perception of the world and contributes to her personal growth.

Critical Acclaim

Whistling Past the Graveyard has received rave reviews from both readers and critics. The novel’s compelling storyline, well-developed characters, and exploration of social issues have been widely praised.

Renowned author Pat Conroy described the book as “a headlong rush of a novel,” praising Susan Crandall’s ability to transport readers to the era and immerse them in the characters’ lives.

The New York Times Book Review hailed it as “an unforgettable coming-of-age tale” that addresses themes of race, identity, and family bonds.

With its powerful narrative and exploration of important social issues, Whistling Past the Graveyard is a must-read for literature enthusiasts. Whether you prefer traditional books, audiobooks, e-books, or podcasts, this novel promises to deliver an engaging and thought-provoking experience.

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