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The Queen of Palmyra

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,579 ratings  ·  273 reviews
In the tradition of Harper Lee's classic comes this story of 11-year-old Florence Forrest, an only child growing up in the Jim Crow South, forced to accept unsavory truths about her family.

Florence is, by all accounts, a happy, spirited girl. She doesn't understand why her father leaves each night with a mysterious box or why her mama drinks so much. What Florence knows ar
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published April 10th 2010)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,579 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 Living in the Jim Crow South, Florence at eleven doesn't understand fully the things she sees and hears. Her father has a secret box, she doesn't know what is in it, but knows her mother dislikes it immensely. The story is told, as Florence grown and now a teacher, takes us back to her childhood. The people she depended on, her grandfather and her grandmother, her grandmother's black maid, who often watches Florence, and a new arrival, a black young woman named Evie.

A beautifully written no
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘The Queen of Palmyra’ by Minrose Gwin takes place in 1963 Mississippi. Florence Irene Forrest is almost eleven years old. Her Dad, Win Forrest, hasn’t been able to hold down a job and Florence has missed almost the entire fourth grade. Mimi and Grandpops, back home in Millwood, “smack in the dead center of the State of Mississippi,” have discovered that the house their daughter, Martha and her family used to live in, has a ‘For Rent’ sign in the yard. Martha is beyond happy to be back in her ol ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
The pitch I was sent for The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin compared the book to The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Of course, I accepted. However, I would like to put this out there, I think that the comparison hinders The Queen of Palmyra. The only thing the two novels share is the same era and state. The Queen of Palmyra focuses on a little girl named Florence Irene Forrest. Florence is what those of us who are uncouth call white trash. Her family is poor, her dad is scary, and her mom finds sol ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is voice. This is place. This is style - writing at once powerful, lyrical, poignant, precise, melancholy, true to its source. Imagery flows naturally and easily - rainwater down a hill. I do not usually choose to read books with precocious, pre-teen protagonists. The older I get, the less interested I am in the device. But 11-year-old Florence is the perfect window on this summer of '63, small-town Mississippi story. The age of on-the-cusp, between child and teenager, between naivete and u ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction-literary
I've seen the other reviews--compared to Harper Lee, compared to Alice Walker...I disagree. This book, for this reader, was tedious, unenlightening, without a credible narrator, and without much to redeem the dreary hours spent reading it. Everything in it has been done and done far better; there is no catharsis, no deepening of one's understanding of the time (early sixties), the place (the deep South), or the issues (racial prejudice, the growth of the civil rights movement).

The narrator, ala
A well-written book about a young girl's experience in the Good Ol' American South, but not exactly captivating. Although the author surely did extensive research on it, essentially, there is something that isn't 60s Southern in the prose - hence the 3 stars. ...more
Jan 17, 2010 rated it liked it
This isn't a very likable book - it hurts in the same way that The Color Purple hurts, only Florence is white, not black. Growing up just a hair north of white trash, in Mississippi during the '60s can't have been easy; having an abusive father who hates blacks and a drunkard mother who doesn't mind them is even more difficult.

Flo's story hits all the notes you expect from a story about those types of people. Unlike The Help, the voices don't always ring true in part because often you get the g
Mandy Burkhart
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a testament to the strength of a mother...and what lengths a woman will go to in order to save another. This is one of those books that will make you simultaneously love and despise the South all at the same time. The language is rich and creamy, and there was one scene in particular that was set up so very well from the beginning that when you get to it, it almost makes your heart stop for a moment. I appreciated the subtly more than anything, I think, in the prose.
Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Short of It:

I loved this book. The story deals with some heavy themes but as it unfolds, it sort of falls gently upon your shoulders and really allows you to experience it and take it in.

The Rest of It:

To be clear, I really loved this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened its pages but what I found inside was a real treat. Sometimes you fall in love with a book because of the writing. Other times, you fall in love with the characters or while reading it, you just find yourself lin
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
What I read was good, but I am giving it 2 stars because I just can't get past page 100... there are so many details and it feels like the book isn't going anywhere. It is hard to keep picking up the book and continue reading it. I can't finish the book. ...more
Pamela Larson
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an EXCELLENT book which covers a difficult period in America's history. It has a "To Kill a Mockingbird" sort-of feel given that it takes place in the South, it's narrated by a girl child and it addresses the ugliness of segregation and racial hatred, and family heartbreak . It's beautifully written - the type of book one has to put down every now and then to absorb its richness. ...more
Risa Hunter
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book set in 1960's Mississippi that highlights not only the people supported and engaged in Klan activities, but also how it affected their families and victims. Highly recommend. ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I could myself physically cringing as I experienced the early 1960s South in this (almost) fifth grader's eyes. A powerful read. ...more
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Minrose Gwin is one of those writers that just knows what she's doing. It doesn't seem like she just woke up one day and decided to write a book. It seems more like she worked hard at it and studied and learned how to become a writer. Which is a good thing. Her prose felt so perfect and natural that it just seemed like it had to have been learned. No one with that amount of talent could have just "decided to have a book" and miraculously have it turn out as the Queen of Palmyra. It is just too w ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, arc, asked
The Queen of Palmyra takes place that fateful summer in 1963 in Mississippi when temperatures got to record breaking highs, JFK and Medgar Evers were assassinated, and the country's racial tensions were at an all time high.

Florence Forrest is a young white girl and it is the summer between her fourth and fifth year in school. However, she is way behind in studies because for the past year, her father and mother have been on the "lam" as she calls it, traveling around while her father unsuccessfu
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent-reads
i entered to win this book on the giveaways and even though i didn't win a copy, i felt it fair to list it as a first read since that's where i first encountered it.

the front cover has a snippit of a review comparing this to To Kill A Mockingbird. that's some big shoes to fill. and although Gwin does a an excellent job of slowly developing her main characters, it doesn't quite make the comparison.

but i feel it's strong in its own way. the story revolves around florence forrest growing up in mis
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
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
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
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Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The writing is beautiful. The story is told through the eyes of an 11 year old child, Florence. The conflicts going on around Florence, both internally & externally are so heavy and complicated. Even though the reader is clued in to what is happening with her family problems and the community's race war, we are shown how the STORY is told from Florence's innocent, naive eyes. She does not understand everything that is going on around her, she cannot yet piece together the whole story that will d ...more
Jane Rose
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have just finished reading The Queen of Palmyra. It is hard to say I enjoyed the book because it is a difficult read because of the life of Flo. A mother who deserts here and a father who is abusive. The times it was set in were hard times. I thought they were portrayed well. Throughout the book there is a feeling of doom and bad things about to happen. You could feel the heat of a long summer through the writing and Flo's striving to understand the world in which she finds herself. ...more
Melanie Downes
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought it was a really good book. I enjoyed it a lot. It's definitely a great book for book club, summer reading and book report for school. It was a lot like The Help, so if you LOVE The Help or Read The Help I highly recommend this book. It was super good. Again if you like The Help or read The Help defiantly read this book ...more
May 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book was being pushed heavily by alot of book sites that I frequent, so I gave it a try. I had a hard time with it because of the way it flowed. I found myself skimming at times. But, I did finish it and I have to say it was just "ok" for me. ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent novel of a young girl in 1963, who has been "on the lam" with her father and needs a tutor to help her prepare for school. The secrets her father keeps are in great contradiction with the world
Florence is experiencing. LOVE!
Mrs. Lapacka
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Parts of this book contained beautiful prose, but it dragged in parts. It is well worth a read, but stay away from it if you're in the mood for something light. Beware...It will make you want cake. ...more
Shay Gabso
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was perplexing. It tells the story of the 1960's racially-challenged south from the perspective of 11 year old Florence, who is surrounded by the usual suspects: the klansman, the black maid etc. As life in Florence's small town are stirred by the coming of Eva, a vibrant young black woman unwilling to accept the place destined to her by the prejudiced society she lives in, Florence - and the reader along with her - learns the secrets and griefs of her family and racial injustice.

This book had me at the first sentence.

"I need you to understand how ordinary it all was."

Yep, those ten words were all I needed. Love at first paragraph, continuing on for the next 297 pages.

I mean, that sentence tells us so much, doesn't it? It tells the reader that narrator Florence Irene Forrest is a bit older, that she's telling us a story about something that might have happened long ago, something possibly terrible and that she survived, and something that in the time and the place it o
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
1963 father is an enforcer for KKK, mother visits bootlegger to give warning. Grandparents pillars of community. Major other actors -- black family --Zenda who cleans house and babysits Florence Irene Foster.

narrated by Florence Irene Foster -- told from her perspective as a preteen primarily

sense of doom throughout the book. As a Southern child of the time period, much of the tensions around race relations and social structure felt very familiar. race wars, class wars, lack of power --desperati
Susan Beamon
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a charming story about the summer that changed the life of an 11 year old white girl in a 1963 Mississippi small town. Parts of it spoke to me because in 1963 I was a 13 year old girl in a small town in Tennessee, just up the road. Lots of the things she saw, I saw. Fortunately for me, many of the parts of her life were not part of mine. But Florence could have been one of the children I knew then.
The Queen of Palmyra has a story within a story. Flo's babysitter, her grandmother's black
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The setting is the racially charged summer of 1963, in the small town of Millwood, Mississippi. The protagonist is the almost 11-year old Florence Forrest. Her parents, Martha and Win Forrest, are an unlikely couple. The family has just returned home from a year wandering around Mississippi and Texas. ". . .Daddy had gotten it in his head he needed to find just the right job for someone of his talents." Florence does not understand her parents. Both parents are self-absorbed and provide little o ...more
Catherine Longbotham
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How have I not known about Minrose Gwin before now? She is truly one of the great Southern writers. The Queen of Palmyra is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

A beautifully written story about the ugliness of racial injustice in 1960’s Mississippi, told from the point of view of our 11-year-old narrator, Florence Forrest.

We see the dysfunction of a family first hand, the secrets kept and the effect it has on the town of Millwood. Florence’s only sense of normalcy comes from her gra
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Minrose Gwin is the author of three novels: The Queen of Palmyra, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award; Promise; and The Accidentals. Wishing for Snow, her 2004 memoir about the convergence of poetry and psychosis in her mother’s life, was reissued by Harper Perennial in 2011. Wearing another hat, she has written four books of lite ...more

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“That's just it, Eva said with a gleam in her eyes that matched the rhinestones on her glasses, you had to get somebody to teach you, to facilitate. Literacy wasn't like a piece of my mama's lemon cake you handed over to somebody on a plate.” 5 likes
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