As nine-year-old Starla Claudelle, the narrator of Whistling Past the Graveyard, explains it, "whistling past the graveyard" is something you do to keep your mind off of your fears. Knitting and quilting are two or my preferred methods of distracting myself. I've knit myself through bed rest and blood clots and late nights when the house creaks and groans and I don't want to think too hard about what's causing those noises. It's neat to know that there's a name for distracting myself this way.
When bully Jimmy Sellers pushes a younger girl into the mud, hot-tempered Starla socks him in the nose. And when her strict grandmother puts her on restriction and leaves her alone in the house with a long list of chores, Starla slips out to the Forth-of-July parade, intending to be home before anyone notices she's gone. It doesn't work out according to her plans and, afraid of being sent to reform school, Starla runs away from home, headed for her mother in Nashville. She hasn't seen her mother since she was three, but she just knows that everything will be okay once she finds her.
Once Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman travelling with a white baby, things begin to go very wrong for all three of them, very fast. I don't want to spoil the story for you by giving away too many details, but their journey to Nashville is a dangerous one that keeps taking unexpected turns.
This is one of those books where I found myself desperately hoping that things would work out okay for the characters. I absolutely loved Starla's distinct voice and personality. Sometimes it's hard to imagine how different life was only a few decades ago.
For more pretty knitting projects to drool over, check out On the Needles at Patchwork Times and Work in Progress Wednesdays at Tami's Amis.