Review: The Queen of Palmyra
After a year of wandering with her family, Florence Forrest is growing up in segregated Millwood, Mississippi in the early 1960’s. Her father sells burial insurance and her alcoholic mother is the town’s “cake lady”. Florence’s mother comes from an educated, enlightened background and her father is a member of the Klan, so their relationship is troubled.
Because of her parents’ problems and the tense atmosphere at home, Florence spends most of her time with her grandmother’s maid, Zenie. Spending so much time at Zenie’s home exposes Florence to the treatment of African American people and she sees racism first hand. She doesn’t understand much of what she sees, so she really doesn’t question it, until years later when she reflects back on her childhood.
The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin is exactly the kind of book I love – it’s set in the South and tackles an issue – so I was really excited to read it. I’m sad to say it didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection of the book or a reflection of my expectations being set too high.
I think the biggest problem I had with this book is that I found the story to be so slow – the pace wasn’t quite fast enough for me. I also wanted a little more background – why did Florence’s parents get married in the first place and why had her family been “on the lam” for a year? I know that some of my questions weren’t answered because the story was told from a child’s perspective, but not having that background took away from the story for me. I also felt a sense of disconnect from Florence – I wanted to get to know her better.
I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Queen of Palmyra, but that’s not the case at all, I just didn’t love it like I thought I would. The book is well written and tells a great story, but overall, I found it to be good, but not great. A lot of other readers have loved it, though.