The Queen of Palmyra

That’s when I got it. You can make up what happens and it can be that. Smooth as eating a piece of lemon meringue pie. Whatever story you want is yours as long as you can think up the picture you want to see and make somebody else want to see it too. Then the story you make up can take up a long and happy life that you and everybody else can watch happening over and over in your head, forever and ever, amen. Uncle Wiggily taking up his trusty valise and his crutch and setting out to seek his fortune through thick and thin. Bomba swinging through the trees. Queenie and the lady slave. It’s yours, and you can say, Here it is, ain’t it a sight to see? And somebody else can say  yes siree bobtail, it sure enough is. (p. 187)

If I was eleven year old Florence Forrest I’d be making up stories, too. Anything to take me away from the life I was living way down in hot, hateful Mississippi in the early 1960s with a mother who married the wrong man.

The novel opens with her getting ‘the box’ for her daddy. You just know it’s a box with some purpose that can’t be good as it dwells in the basement with spiders building their nests all around it. Except for when he gets a phone call after supper and asks Florence to fetch it for him.

Her mother makes cakes to help support the family: lemon, caramel, and devil’s food. She must be an expert at the devil’s food, in particular, because that is whom she has mistakenly married: the very devil himself.

More than a novel about racial discord, about growing up poor and scared, about finding one’s place in a tumultuous world, this novel was about the hate of one man, Win Forrest, and just how pervasive that hate could be. It was riveting to me.

Find other reviews here:

Tuesday, May 4th: five borough book review

Wednesday, May 5th: The Bluestocking Society

Monday, May 10th: Rundpinne

Tuesday, May 11th: Natty Michelle

Wednesday, May 12th: Pam’s Perspective

Wednesday, May 12th: My Reading Room

Wednesday, May 19th: Staircase Wit

Thursday, May 20th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, May 26th: Take Me Away

Thursday, May 27th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker

Monday, May 31st: Green Jello

Tuesday, June 1st: Crazy for Books

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10 thoughts on “The Queen of Palmyra”

  1. Many positive reviews, yes, but a few not so positive. I thought the writing was fantastic, and I will long remember Florence Forrest, but it is neither light nor happy, so be warned of that.

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  2. I'm entranced by the echoes of Flannery O'Connor in Florence' voice. I'd read the book for that voice alone – Southern, straightforward, a little more honst in expressing her perspective on the world than I'd like. As for her daddy, Miss Flannery had a word about him, too, I suspect. She said, "Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one."

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  3. Linda, imagine: I've never read anything by Flannery O'Connor! (And I call myself a reader?!) You've encouraged me to pick something up by her this summer…my knowledge of southern writers is quite abysmal. I love your wealth of quotes and information, my friend.

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  4. I know what you mean, Les, but you might be surprised; it was greatly moving. I won't forget the life of Florence for a long time, and in many ways it's been compared to To Kill A Mockingbird which you liked.

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