April 2010 Indie Next List
“WOW. What an incredible writer. Minrose Gwin uses words the way an artist uses paint, adding layers upon layers as she tells the story of young Florence Irene Forrest. Her family returns home to a small, segregated Alabama town in the 1960s, her father is holding secrets, her mother bakes cakes and is barely holding on, and she is a little girl holding on to her dream of a happy ending for her story. Florence spends her time listening, watching and waiting to be ready for whatever is headed her way. Her attention to the details in the people around her and the way she perceives herself as seen by others, leads to one heart wrenching phrase, I”
— Nona Camuel, CoffeeTree Books, Morehead, KY
"I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . ."
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 timesa 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 Americaa nuanced, gripping story of race and identity.
...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
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.
-Lee Smith, author of ON AGATE HILL
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.
-Sharon Oard Warner, author of Deep in the Heart