The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin (Harper Perennial, April 27, 2010), 426 pages

In 1963, Florence Irene Forrest (That’s with two Rs, make a note.) lives in segregated Millwood, Mississippi. Her father can’t seem to stick to any job, until he begins selling burial insurance. Her mother sneaks trips to the local bootlegger while making ends meet by baking cakes. Florence spends most of her time with her grandparents’ longtime maid, Zenie.

The Queen of Palmyra is a well-written, compelling story. (I can’t really say it’s great or I loved it because of the story it tells.) The content of the story made me queasy at times, and I had to put it down and walk away for awhile. It’s also terribly sad. I guess you don’t pick up a novel like this one to be uplifted, but still.

Part of my struggle, I think, is that Gwin reveals much to the reader that Florence doesn’t comprehend. Somehow this makes the dread of the inevitable ends that much stronger. It also seemed vaguely creepy at points.

On a lighter note, I did love all the talk of diagramming sentences!

I’m drawn to Southern stories of this time period. This debut novel is an excellent, worthy addition to this category of books, but it’s not my favorite book of its type.

About the author
Minrose Gwin is the author of the 2004 memoir Wishing for Snow. She teaches contemporary fiction at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s working on a book about Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Other reviews
Book, Line and Sinker
Book Chatter
The Girl from the Ghetto

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


9 responses to “The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

  1. Yeah, there were moments where I read about the dad doing sometihng, and I was like, “is he really doing what I think he’s doing?” That was sort of shocking to me. I kept wanting Gwin not to go there.

  2. I’m still not sure about the way the author chose to end the book,but otherwise I thought it was a powerful story and “enjoyed” it very much.

    I agree with Ti that sometimes (well, most of the time) the actions of Florence’s father were just downright creepy even though they weren’t explicitly described.

  3. I lived in Mississippi in 1963 and I’m really looking forward to reading this book, even though I know it tackles some difficult subjects.

  4. stacybuckeye

    I just read Melody’s review and was intrigued. Thanks for reminding me that it will probably make me sad. That’s not something I’m interested in right now 🙂

  5. I’ve heard good things about this book and definitely want to read it at some point. Thanks for the review.

  6. Great review. I’m curious about this book, although I don’t think I’m in the right mood to read something so sad now. But I’ll keep it in mind, I like Southern stories, too.

  7. I am really curious about this and will likely read it despite it’s mixed reviews.

  8. I just added this to my TBR from what I had read on another blog this morning. Your review is a bit more detailed so I am getting a better feel of what the book is about.

    Thanks Hannah for your thoughts on this one 🙂

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