Book Review by Deirdre Tolhurst
…And the Whippoorwill Sang
by Micki Peluso
...And the Whippoorwill Sang captured my attention from the very first page and tugged at my heartstrings throughout. Whether it was to laugh or to cry, I found myself so involved with the story that I was anticipating the next chapter with unexpected zeal.
The book quickly drew me in, making me feel as if Micki and I were sitting at her kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. She is relaxed in her writing, which made me feel like I was a part of her large family. Her words are descriptive; so much so that I could see not just the curtains, but through the windows to the streets and neighborhood beyond. I love that about this book, I can visualize what the couch looks like when Micki is recuperating from having a baby. I can see Dante's mischievous face, Michael and Kim talking about leaving home with only the things their grandmother had given them, Kelly learning to talk, and Nicole wrapping her hair around her toes. I see a huge dog that doesn’t ride very well in the car!
The book begins in 1959 at Micki's wedding at age 17 to Butch. I loved how she explained the wedding night in a way that would never offend any reader. I couldn't help but laugh and smile and feel good. She brought me back to the way things used to be in the 60s and 70s. The places they lived while their family grew, the decor, the pets, so much to see with your mind's eye to make you feel a part of the story. Things were so much different back then, parents didn't worry so much about their children going out and playing, coming home when the street lights came on. Moms didn't drive, they did the wash and made clothes and did whatever they could to be sure to have enough money for groceries, and dads worked so hard to support the family. Children slept in attics, basements, and laundry rooms; wherever there was enough space to put a bed. And the children never complained. Dinners were whatever moms could throw together from leftovers, and everyone was content.
Most families at the time were large, and each child had their own personality traits which made them unique and separated them from their siblings. There were six children in the Peluso household. Noelle was independent at a very young age, broadly intelligent, and her charm captured your heart. She went through that period of time that every girl does, where hormones cause a shift in personality, but came back to being the darling that her siblings all remember. At the young age of 14, she was killed by a drunk driver while walking to the park. Before she died, her mother promised her that she wouldn't let her life be in vain, that she would let the world know that Noelle had lived.
It is so easy to relate to the stories Mrs. Peluso tells about those years, some of which had me laughing in sheer nostalgic bliss, and others that had me wanting to give her a hug and share her grief. I highly recommend this book. There are so many reasons why. It takes a baby boomer back to life in the 60s, and it is a double bonus if you are from the Northeast. It is a comfortable book, yet one the reader never loses interest in. It can definitely be read in a weekend, and it is one that you will remember. Mrs. Peluso travels in time to the early days of her family, occasionally coming back to the moment at hand, when Noelle's life is hanging in the balance. But she doesn't stay there long, only enough to fill the reader's mind with sympathy for this mother who remains strong despite the pain she is going through. Micki is the glue that is holding the family together, when she is the one who desperately needs to be hugged and loved and reassured that the choices she is making are the right ones. She wrestles with her spirituality, but knows in her heart that God is in charge and will one day remove her grief. It brings to the open the heartache that families go through when a lawless person, not caring about whom they hurt goes out reckless into the world. The devastation that is caused by drunk drivers is brought home to you between the eyes. Noelle was real, for crying out loud, she was a little girl, only 14, and minding her own business when her life was taken in a matter of moments. Is there justice for the family? The man who hit her served time, but Noelle never grew up.
There is a sweet sorrow to Noelle’s short life, but even so, her mother’s promise was met. I know that Noelle lived, and you will too if you buy this book. It is a 5-star read!
Deirdre Tolhurst, Author, A Christmas I Remember, ISBN 978-1-61346-422-9.