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Mystery Monday – Whistling In the Dark


Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen

Review by Gail P. (TinkerPirate)


It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Whistling in the Dark is a book I picked up on one of my semi-annual trips to Half Price Books (yes, I do sometimes “cheat” on PBS and actually buy books….but, if none of us ever “cheated”, we would all just be swapping the same old books around and around and around….right?). I’m not really sure why I bought it – other than it was in the clearance section for $2 – because when I got it home, I didn’t end up reading it. It languished on Mt. TBR until I decided I was probably never going to read it and put it on My Bookshelf where it languished for a number of months more. When it was requested this week, I took it down, dusted it off, read the back cover, and decided I’d give it a try before I sent it off to a new home.

Boy, am I ever glad I did! This book really resonated with me. It’s the kind of book that when I finished it (not more than 5 minutes ago), I just sat in the chair and smiled.

Whistling in the Dark is a book about a family going through “a hard patch”. The father died, the mother got remarried to a good-for-very-little-loser, the mother gets sick and spends the majority of the book in the hospital with the children living with stepfather who would much rather look into the bottom of a bottle than the eyes of his step-children, all the while there is a pedophile/murderer on the loose…..and, if the story hadn’t been told through the eyes of 10-year old Sally O’Malley, it could have been a very sad story.

At this point in the Blog, I should tease you with an artfully written description of the book. But, I’m not going to do that. There are already plenty of reviews in the system that tell you what the book is about. What I’d rather do is tell you why the book made me smile.

You see, like Sally, I am the product of the 1950s MidWest. It was a place and time where you knew your neighbors and what they had for dinner because you could smell it cooking through the open windows. It was a place and time where you didn’t lock your doors, you left the keys in the ignition of the car, and, during the summer, children roamed free from after breakfast until after the street lights came on. It was a time and place where the heat and humidity would make you think you couldn’t take another breath or another step until a neighbor kid called you over to play Red Light-Green Light. It was a time without air conditioning, but a place with a pond that was just the right temperature to cool you off.

The time and place Lesley Kagen created reminded me so much of when and where and how I grew up….carefree….surrounded by a neighborhood full of kids – some friends, some not friends, and some just plain evil – and full of parents that considered you just an extended part of the family so, when you showed up at dinner time or at bedtime because little Susie asked to you to come to dinner or spend the night, there was no question and another plate was added to the table or an extra pillow thrown on the bed. Like Sally’s neighborhood, we had a park with a summer activities program where we made lanyards, played games, and traded secrets. My little town had a store that sold real penny candy, a drug store with a soda counter, and a little movie theater. Heck, we even had the kid that would ramble about nekkid.

And, while Sally’s definitions of “grown-up” concepts seem silly to me now, they are completely relatable to the younger me who once asked my mother in front of a whole living room of Pinochle payers what a “social disease” was.

Yup, this book really made me smile…………………………………




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9 Responses to “Mystery Monday – Whistling In the Dark”

  1. SherryKaraoke says:

    Thanks, Lesley – you have inspired me to get this book. As a midwestern child of the ’50s, I look forward to reading about Sally.

  2. Sherry S. (SherryKaraoke) , says:

    Oops – I meant Gail!! Is my face red!

  3. Kristony222 says:

    Sounds like My Girl (the movie) to me… I always wished there were more kids around where I grew up! That’s the kind of childhood *I* wanted! Thanks for another fun blog Tink! 🙂

  4. Lori S. (GroovyGlitterGirl) says:

    After hearing Gail mention this on Facebook, I immediately ordered the book and enjoyed it immensely!! Then I ordered Lesley Kagen’s next book and just finished it as well. Love the way that she writes from such unique characters points of view:-)

  5. Barbara S. (barbelaine1) says:

    Enjoyed your blog. Love the book.

  6. Gail P. (TinkerPirate) Montara, CA says:

    Thanks everybody!

  7. ANNA S. (SanJoseCa) says:

    A beautifully written review that made me smile too!

  8. Linda (Angeleyes) , says:

    Thanks Tink ! Another one for the ol’ RL…lol

  9. Bertie W. (bertie0228) , says:

    I have the book and have been putting off reading it, don’t know why. I will now put down the book I am reading and pick this one up. I also heard that there is a sequel, anyone know if this is just a rumor??

    Thanks for the great review

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