By Susan Crandall
It is 1963 in rural Mississippi. Nine year old Starla Claudelle is being raised by her very strict paternal grandmother, Mamie. It isn’t easy, and she often feels neglected or unloved. Starla’s father is away working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Her mother, Lulu, has been gone to Nashville for many years, working at becoming a country singer.
After sassing Mamie, fiery, red-haired Starla is not allowed to go to the Fourth of July festivities. When she sneaks out to join her best friend, she is caught by the neighborhood gossip. Fearing Mamie will send her away to reform school, Starla runs away. She feels if she can make it to Nashville, her father will join them and they can be a real family again.
Taking off down the country road out of town, Starla is offered a ride. The black woman introduces herself as Eula. She is traveling with a white baby she calls James. Though segregation is is serious issue, Starla accepts the ride hoping it will get her closer to Nashville and her mother.
The adventure that follows changes everything for Starla and Eula, forever altering both of their lives. It becomes a long and dangerous journey traveling without men, with race issues, the needs of an infant, and many unforeseen problems.
Life isn’t always what it seems, and dreams are sometimes just that. This is a hard lesson for Starla. Family can be more than blood, often being about the deep bonds of the heart and soul. Starla and both Eula learn this valuable fact of life together.
Susan Crandall has written a wonderful coming of age novel, yet it is about so much more. It is filled with life lessons, wisdom, warmth and love. I recommend this great spirited novel, and look forward to more books like this from her.