Friends, I have been wanting to tell you about this book for several weeks but just keep putting it off because the story washed over me in such a wonderful way that I didn’t want to rush through my review of it. Whew! I barely feel like I can relay to you how beautiful and impactful it is. I really want you to read it, ok? And I really think you should have your kids read it, depending on their ages. Encourage your family and friends to read it. Suggest it to the educators in your life. Make sure you purchase a copy; don’t just borrow one. You’ll want this around for years to come, and I bet you’ll have the urge to lovingly mark it up, too.
Okay. Let’s begin.
The book that has me so riled up is Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall.
Our famous little Oklahoma book club devoured and discussed this way back in March. We met here at the farm late that month and had a fun evening together eating great food, loving on each other, and talking over what we all agreed is destined to become a modern American classic.
Dinner Club With a Reading Problem always has a memorable time together. Y’all know that by now. But this book, assigned to the group by Seri after she randomly spotted it one day at Target, really got our attention.
The story is set in 1963 in the Deep South. It follows a precocious, not always pleasant, but in the end very lovable little girl and the adults closely attached to her life. Together they experience normal childhood stuff plus one grand (and sad) adventure as well as fascinating cultural scenes from that region at that time and the racially charged tension that often occupied it.
Whistling Past the Graveyard holds its own with books like The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which our book club has read and discussed. We have also read Seven Days in May by beloved Oklahoma author Jen Luitweiler, another bit of historical fiction about social turbulence, racially charged issues, cultural differences, and the like. So it’s fair to say we have a good base for tackling these themes. This newest title not only added to our repertoire; it also deepened our conversations. A lot. Something about the characters Crandall wrote and the way they are all a mix of good and bad, whether black or white or rich or poor, something about that peeled away even more layers. Our discussion that night was fascinating and too short. We all thought this book warranted more talk time.
For all the painful, universal broad strokes in a story like this, there is also a deep ocean of personal love for the reader to swim in. Personal stories are where the big stories really happen anyway, right? These pages are loaded with believable moments when you feel like you are right there in the characters’ faces. Lots of tangible affection and terribly acute heartache, too. I could share beautiful quotes like this from throughout the book, but I just really want you to read it for yourself. I will personally be enjoying it again and again, just like Grapes of Wrath. It has a classic, better-every-time-you-read-it sort of magic. Flipping through my dog-eared pages I already miss the fabric of the story, its thick, soft, patchwork-quilt quality, the very real characters and emotion Crandall conjured up. The spiritual lessons. Everything! Just wonderful, nourishing, entertaining stuff from the very first page to the last.
By the way, this book is a mere 308 pages, and the story moves fluidly. Smoothly. You should be able to tuck it in between more laborious titles with ease, and I suspect it will refresh you deeply. Spoiler Alert: You will probably cry at some point, but don’t give up and stop reading. Promise me you will finish to the end.
Okay, that’s it for now! Have you read Whistling Past the Graveyard? If so, what did you think? If not, are you now tempted to grab it and gobble it up this weekend? Tell me everything.
“Sometimes laughin’ is all a body can do, child.
It’s laugh or lose your mind.”
~Susan Crandall Whistling Past the Graveyard