In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three—that’s when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla’s daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of “Lord, give me strength,” is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla’s life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.
About the Author
Susan Crandall is an award-winning women’s fiction, suspense, romance, and mystery author. Her first book, Back Roads, won the RITA award for best first book, as well as two National Reader’s Choice awards. She has released eight more critically acclaimed and award-winning novels. Susan lives in Indiana.
ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT
Starla is almost 10 years old when she is put on restriction AGAIN by her grandmother, where she lives in a small town in Mississippi while her father works on an oil rig. The disappointment grows when Starla realizes that she will miss the Fourth of July parade and fireworks. Told to stay home, she sneaks off to watch them anyway. Caught by a neighbor, she is put on even more restriction and when she overhears her grandmother say she will be sent to reform school, she decides to be proactive and run away before that can happen. Starla decides that her mother who is living in Nashville and is a “famous singer” is her destination. As she is walking down the road, dying of thirst, a woman with a baby picks her up.
The woman, Eula, offers a ride in her broken down truck and Starla accepts rather than go to some horrible place her grandmother might send her. The story covers their trip to Nashville and all that they encounter. I am just going to get this out of my system now: The Secret Life of Bees, The Help, Huckleberry Finn were what came to mind while reading this one. The pair bring to light to horrible racism that still exists in the South today but was even worse in the early Sixties. As Starla witnesses the injustice that Eula faces on a daily basis, you can see the wheels turning in this bright child’s mind and how she is trying to understand why things are so unfair. The fighting spirit is also strong in her as she tries to make everything right for those she cares about.
Her grandmother is not quite evil, but you can tell that her feelings about Starla’s mother transfer over to how she feels about her granddaughter. I don’t want to give anything away but it does have a happy ending for all involved. There are themes of child abuse, domestic violence, social mores that make no sense including how unwed mothers were treated and the fact that Starla barely escaped being known as a bastard. This would make an excellent book for a club since there is so much to discuss. This has to be one of my favorite books that I have read this year.
Disclosure I received this book from the publisher at no charge and in no way influenced my review. If you are considering purchasing this book or anything else from Amazon, please use my link above since I earn a very small percentage of the sale which helps pay for shipping my giveaways!
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