Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Queen of Palmyra-Minrose Gwin

The Queen of Palmyra
Minrose Gwin
Harper, Apr 27 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061840326

In 1963 in Millwood, Mississippi funeral insurance salesman Win Forest heads the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. His wife Martha is deathly afraid of her husband while their eleven year old daughter Florence is confused though she can clearly see her mom's trepidation. When her mother makes treks to bootleggers she leaves her child with her grandparents; another repetitive occurrence that bewilders the child.

At her grandparent’s home, Florence seems to always anger the ultra tall heavy black housekeeper, Zenie. Florence also spends time at Zenie's home in the rundown Negro neighborhood Shake Rag. As the civil rights movement explodes across the south, Zenie's niece Eva arrives to sell insurance to pay for her college tuition; igniting the racial tension even further.

The aptly titled Queen of Palmyra is a terrific historical drama that brings to life the period of Mississippi Burning but with more depth than the super movie. The key players represent various groups during the Civil Rights struggle with the extremes being Win willing to kill to retain what little power he has left and Eva willing to risk her life for economic and academic opportunities. Caught in the middle are Martha and Zenie pulled by their respective race to support their side when both want to be left alone. Observing all is the confused tweener who will remind readers of To Kill a Mockingbird. Character driven, Minrose Gwin captures the essence of a changing world.

Harriet Klausner

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