Received: Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalleyRelease Date: July 2, 2013
Buy From Amazon.ca / Buy From Chapters.ca /
Buy From BookDepository.com
From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.
The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.
When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.
As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.
I don't know what it was about the synopsis that stuck out me with this book, but I knew I was intrigued. I love coming of age stories, and I think the idea that this is a coming of age book done in the 1960's in Mississippi really caught my attention. This story is told from the perspective of Starla, a nine-year-old who has run away to find her mother in Nashville.
I will admit that it took me some time to really get into the story, I had some troubles in the beginning because of Starla's voice. Crandall definitely gets the southern voice in here (while reading it I was imagining a very southern country voice). In the beginning I had a hard time understanding everything Starla said, but you quickly become accustomed, it's the way people spoke at the time. I can say that this book would not be what it is if not for the first person narration, you can really see how naive Starla is with a lot of things in life. By using Starla as the narrator Crandall really puts you in the mind of someone growing up in this time with a different view of life.
Starla has had a difficult time for a nine-year-old, she lives with her grandmother who is extremely strict and believes that Starla will turn out like her mother, someone who will throw their life away at the drop of a hat. Starla is convinced that her mother will help her and they can become a family again. Starla decides to run away, and on the way meets with Eula, a black woman who has her own burdens. These two become fast friends on their travels, and their relationship is beautiful.
I loved how Starla and Eula communicated with one another, and that Eula became a surrogate mother for Starla while on the road. Susan Crandall did a beautiful job of bringing out the prejudices of the time, yet at the same time she shows that there are still people who believe in the right thing.
Starla grows up a lot during her travels, and learns what the real world is like. I did feel that some of the situations were over the top and the story was unbelievable at times, and yet I wanted more of these characters. This is one of those books that shows you family is not just about blood, but about the bonds you have with them as well.
I ended up loving this story, and found that through all the emotional parts there was still a little bit of humour. Starla has a temper on her, which is what always gets her in trouble, I love hearing her voice as she tries to keep herself calm. But it was also cute to see Starla try to converse with the adults at some points and she tries to use words she doesn't understand, it made her adorable, and I loved that she was trying.
This book is definitely a great show of those times, and has some amazing characters that I would love to meet myself. This book is not only about Starla growing up and learning about the real world but also for Eula to grow as well. They help each other through troubles on their travels and come to rely on each other despite their skin colour.