Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Review: The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Florence Forrest is an eleven year old living in a small segregated town in Mississippi. Her ordinary life changes when she learns about the impact of racial divides. Her father Win, is a burial insurance salesman with a detestable but not uncommon past-time. Her mother Martha is predominantly supporting the family baking cakes for the neighborhood. Tensions rise and fall in her household. Win's racist comments and ideas are not shared by his wife. Despite his opinions and dominance Martha has her own indiscretions. Try as she might, Florence cannot keep her family together. Her mother's moonshine purchases have become more increasing, and she has begun placing the liquid in a bottle marked 'poison.' Her father has a secret briefcase under lock and key that must never be opened, but he has been frequently leaving during the middle of the night. Florence has been keeping many of their secrets and her parents have begun to distance themselves from her. Her meals become less and less frequent, and no one seems to be noticing that her clothes are ragged and too small. When Florence is in need, she depends on her wealthy grandparents. Throughout the summer she begins to spend more and more time at her grandparents. As a result, she begins to spend an increasing amount of time with their black housekeeper Zenie who begins to tell her the story of Zenobia, The Queen of Palmyra. Zenie becomes a great influence on Florence. Zenie's beautiful, ambitious niece Eva is a strong believer of change and progress. As tensions rise amongst the community, she is assaulted. Florence notices the change in Zenie's demeanor and her ignorance begins to shed. Florence opens her eyes to a new world, a world where her bonds with both the white community and the separated black community has left her torn.
I thought the book was very well written, and I did enjoy it but I felt like there was something missing. It took long for me to get into the story, and I had to put it aside for awhile. This was due to other book obligations but I had no problem setting it aside. However, when I did pick it up and the pace picked up, I really began to enjoy the novel. I loved Florence, she was a great character. Her innocence shined throughout the novel, and her attachment to her family and Zenie's family was heart wrenching. She lived in a world where she was neglected but she couldn't help but love everyone. As a young child she noticed their flaws, and didn't hold grudges against them. Her relationship with her mother was sincere. She acknowledged her mothers issues, and she tried to understand her. As the story progressed Florence's situation becomes horrific and this novel takes a dark turn. I think each reader will have to read this one on their own, and form their own opinions. I think it was a very interesting read, but it didn't mesh well for me. I do not want my rating to discourage others from reading this one, you really have to read it for yourself.