The Queen of Palmyra: Book summary and reviews of The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

The Queen of Palmyra

by Minrose Gwin

The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin X
The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin
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  • Published in USA  May 2010
    416 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Paperback Original. In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood's white population steers clear of "Shake Rag," the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town's "cake lady," whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents' longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen's courage and cunning.

The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times—a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie's vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer.

Minrose Gwin's The Queen of Palmyra is an unforgettable evocation of a time and a place in America—a nuanced, gripping story of race and identity.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This thought-provoking novel shows the terror and tragedy in one divided Southern community whose residents have no interest in reconciling." - Publishers Weekly

"First-novelist Gwin employs an offbeat, stream-of-consciousness style in this atmospheric depiction of racial hatred in the Deep South." - Booklist

"...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." - Jill McCorkle, author of The Going Away Shoes

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Author Information

Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is the author of the memoir Wishing for Snow, cited by Booklist as "eloquent" and "lyrical"—"a real life story we all need to hear." She has written three scholarly books and coedited The Literature of the American South. She teaches contemporary fiction at UNC–Chapel Hill and, like her young protagonist, grew up in a small Mississippi town.

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