In the tradition of Harper Lee's classic comes this story of 11-year-old
Florence Forrest, an only child growing up in the Jim Crow South, forced
to accept unsavory truths about her family.
Florence is, by all accounts, a happy, spirited girl. She doesn't understand
why her father leaves each night with a mysterious box or why her
mama drinks so much. What Florence knows are sultry days spent with
her grandparents, being cared for by their maid, Zenie, on the colored
side of town.
Tension builds during the summer of 1963. Mama bakes cakes at all
hours to scrape by. And Zenie's niece Eva is in town, selling insurance to the
blacks and stepping on Mr. Forrest's toes. When Eva is brutally assaulted,
all hell breaks loose: Mama crashes her car, Florence's grandfather dies, a
woman is murdered, and Florence finally gets a look in Daddy's box.
Florence sees things that summer that she won't understand for years
to come: her mother's disappearance, her father's racism. Years later, she'll
face the truth and how she was caught in the middle of it. The Queen of
Palmyra is rich in both setting and characters. It's an affecting tale of a girl
who is loved yet lost, trying to make sense of the world in a tumultuous
time, finally forced to confront the sins of her father.
"Holds the reader spellbound...."
Lee Smith, author of Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger
The protagonist of this affecting and disturbing bildungsroman, Florence Forrest, lives in Millwood, Miss., the small segregated town where her father, Win, a burial insurance salesman, is the proud leader of the local Klansmen. It's 1963, and Florence can't figure out why her mother, Martha, fears Win and focuses her attention on making runs to bootleggers. Florence spends days at her grandparents' house where she irritates the surly black housekeeper, Zenie (named for Zenobia, the queen of ancient Palmyra), and the afternoons with Zenie's family in Shake Rag, the neighborhood on the black side of town. Zenie has no particular affection for Florence or her kin, but tolerates the lot of them out of necessity. The civil rights movement is sweeping through the South, and when Zenie's pretty, ambitious niece, Eva, comes to town to sell insurance to earn money for college, Millwood will never be the same. This thought-provoking novel shows the terror and tragedy in one divided Southern community whose residents have no interest in reconciling. The blacks want their equal rights while Win and his followers would rather kill than relinquish power. (May)
...a brilliant and compelling novel... The beauty of the prose, the strength of voice and the sheer force of circumstance will hold the reader spellbound from beginning to end.”
The most powerful and also the most lyrical novel about race, racism, and denial in the American South since To Kill A Mockingbird....A story about knowing and not knowing, The Queen of Palmyra is finally a testament to the ultimate power of truth and knowledge, language and love.
Sharon Oard Warner
Divert your reader and, and then “clobber” them, advised Flannery O’Connor. In this bold and brilliant book, Minrose Gwin diverts us with the affecting voice of a child and then clobbers us with the ugly truths of our collective past. I can almost hear O’Connor cheering.