Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

Summary: 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.-- Harper Perennial

I was really excited to start The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin because of the buzz I had heard about it. I had recently finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett and loved it, and had heard this was a comparable tale. What I wasn't expecting was this story to really grab me, and throw some gritty, hard to take subjects my way.

Of course, as you expect from a novel based in Mississippi in the 1960's, there were some deep racial issues going on, and there is some serious tension in this part of the country and between the characters. Florence Forrest, an 11 year old girl, is caught in the middle - her mother who has grown up respecting the black people who work for her family, and a radically racist father who would like nothing more than to purify his town.
This book not only deals with the racial issues, but also issues of abuse. You should definitely be prepared for a strong novel that will probably stir some strong feelings. These issues are powerful and aren't always easy to swallow, but they are important to remember. This tale stirred some deep feelings for me, even though I have no first hand experience dealing with these issues. Which is what a good novel does, right?

I also really enjoyed Minrose Gwin's writing style. Her words seemed to flow beautifully, even with the harshness of her topics. Her characters were amazingly developed, each with their own personalities, views, strengths and weaknesses. I hated putting the book down, and when I did, I found myself thinking about the characters and their struggles.

I highly recommend The Queen of Palmyra. Not only is it a great novel, but I definitely think that it would make a really interesting book club selection. I think that this book will definitely stir up some emotions and people will be affected by this novel.

I am happy to host a giveaway of my own gently read ARC of The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin!! Just leave a comment on this post, and be sure to leave your email address so I can get a hold of you! No way to contact entry (sorry - dems the breaks)!! Last day to enter will be Monday, May 24th, and I'll announce a winner on Tuesday, May 25th.

Good luck everyone!!


bermudaonion said...

This sounds wonderful to me. No need to enter me in the giveawy.

Sunny @ the Library said...

Count me in, dear!

Charlie said...

I've had my eye this one -- glad to see you enjoyed it.

tetewa said...

I'd like to be included, count me in!

brainella said...

Hmmm...this sounds really good. Pick me! :)

Rebekah said...

I also loved The Help and this sounds even better.

avalonne83 said...

Great giveaway!

Please count me in. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Crystal said...

I work in a small town library and this would make a great addition to our collection - after I read it first. Hee! Hope I win.

janineb said...

love the sound of it!

traveler said...

Thanks for featuring this lovely book. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

This sound like what I need I have been in a book slump. You when you just cant find something that says read me.

Amanda said...

Oh I am loving this book. I am almost done and my tour day is next week. I loved Florence and felt so sad for her even though she was a bit clueless. Tear. I am so glad I signed up for this one.

Dawn M. said...

This sounds like a great story. Would love the chance to read it. Count me in, please! :0)

librarygrinch at gmail dot com

Carol M said...

This sounds good! Please enter me!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Sarah E said...

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E