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The Queen of Palmyra: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, April 27, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The protagonist of this affecting and disturbing bildungsroman, Florence Forrest, lives in Millwood, Miss., the small segregated town where her father, Win, a burial insurance salesman, is the proud leader of the local Klansmen. It's 1963, and Florence can't figure out why her mother, Martha, fears Win and focuses her attention on making runs to bootleggers. Florence spends days at her grandparents' house where she irritates the surly black housekeeper, Zenie (named for Zenobia, the queen of ancient Palmyra), and the afternoons with Zenie's family in Shake Rag, the neighborhood on the black side of town. Zenie has no particular affection for Florence or her kin, but tolerates the lot of them out of necessity. The civil rights movement is sweeping through the South, and when Zenie's pretty, ambitious niece, Eva, comes to town to sell insurance to earn money for college, Millwood will never be the same. This thought-provoking novel shows the terror and tragedy in one divided Southern community whose residents have no interest in reconciling. The blacks want their equal rights while Win and his followers would rather kill than relinquish power. (May)
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Like Kathryn Stockett’s superhot The Help (2009), The Queen of Palmyra is set in 1960s Mississippi and deals with a segregated society in which black women are paid poorly to raise white people’s children. And like the popular Secret Life of Bees (2002), by Sue Monk Kidd, it is narrated by a confused young girl who can barely process the traumatic events she sees but does not understand. Florence’s abusive father sells burial insurance to black folks who can hardly afford it, and her beleaguered mother drinks as she bakes and sells cakes to shore up the family’s precarious finances. Amid the oppressive heat of summer in 1963 in the small town of Millwood, the neglected Florence is constantly shuttled between her grandparents and their longtime black maid, Zenie, with whom she meets Zenie’s niece, college student Eva Greene. When Eva begins selling burial insurance to pay for her education, simmering racial tensions erupt, and Florence becomes a witness to unspeakable crimes. First-novelist Gwin employs an offbeat, stream-of-consciousness style in this atmospheric depiction of racial hatred in the Deep South. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Top customer reviews
I would rate it between those. This takes you where you might not want to go in several instances.Having grown up in the 60's I can relate some of the characters.
I knew some of these people, I STILL know some of these people. I Don't think I know any members of the Klan, but I do know some whose grandparents belonged. This gives more of a cross-sectioned veiw of what was going on. I highly reccommend it.