Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall 
Pub Date July 2, 2013; ARC received from NetGalley
Starla, a nine-year old girl with red hair and a temper to match when she encounters injustice, has continually been told she’s nothing but trouble. Abandoned by her parents (her father’s an oil-rigger gone for long stretches of time and her mother ran away to seek fame and fortune as a Nashville country music star), she’s forced to live with her abusive, bigoted grandmother.
After one silly punishment too many by grandma Mamie after standing up to a neighborhood bully, Starla embarks on a quest to reunite with her absentee mother so that they can become a family again. Along the road she meets her adult counterpart, Eula, an African-American woman who’s also a victim of domestic abuse and doesn’t realize her own true worth.
Because she doesn’t want the child traveling alone, Eula makes the generous/dangerous decision to accompany Starla to Nashville. Dangerous because the story is set in the early 1960’s, a time of blatant racism and a burgeoning civil rights movement; a time when a black woman and white child seen together could evoke murderous wrath. Along the way, they encounter people and situations that allow them to come to an understanding of who they really are, what they really believe, and where their place is in the world.
Whistling Past the Graveyard is a heart-wrenching and heat-warming story that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go until the end. I liked them both and hope they fared well after our observation of their lives ends…and I really want to know what Starla grew up to be!