Posts Tagged Minrose Gwin

book review: The Accidentals

The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin. William Morrow| August 2019| 381 pages | $16.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-247175-8

RATING: ****/5*

–review by Amy Steele


“That fall June and I had at long last begun to plumb the depth of our mother’s unhappiness.”

In 1957, Olivia McAlister chooses to have an abortion in Mississippi. Illegal at the time, the only options for abortion were often cheap, quick back-alley abortions. Olivia longed to return to New Orleans and feels like an “accidental”—a migratory bird flown off course. Olivia dies leaving her two daughters, Grace and June, and her husband Holly on their own, the effects far-reaching throughout their lives. Holly becomes obsessed with building a bomb shelter. The daughters struggle to find their place in the world.

As a teenager, Grace becomes involved in a love affair with two boys. When she becomes pregnant, she’s sent away to have the child. Originally the aunt had planned the raise the child as her own but the child’s born with a facial defect—a cleft palate—and the aunt gets scared away. At an orphanage, the baby has an accident and is presumed dead. Ed Mae Johnson, an African-American care worker ends up taking the child home and raising her. Grace goes to college and later grad school. She travels the world studying ancient texts—“Here I am, fluent in Greek and Latin and Arabic. I can examine a piece of papyrus and give you its age within twenty years . . .” She works as a professor. She bird watches and feeds the wildlife in her backyard.

“One of the few things I’d come to pride myself on was having learned to take pleasure in things nobody else would think twice about. I had no expectations so I was constantly surprised by small pleasures. A thick peanut and butter and jelly sandwich, flocks of blackbirds flashing their red-tipped wings as they swooped down on the corn, Elsa’s celery smell at the end of a day in the kitchen. The first snow of winter, which had fallen just the past week and melted the next day.”

June finds religion as a teenager. She goes to church with a friend and gets baptized. She practices kissing with a female friend until that friend gets a boyfriend. She attends college and works as a journalist. She notes: “… I am the bona fide reporter, hardcore police beat and such, first woman in my paper’s history to work the news desk.” June unhappily marries and has a son. After undergoing cancer treatment, she starts fostering and adopting dogs—“These dogs of mine, they weren’t pretty to look at, and after Noel left, I made a point to choose the ones I know didn’t have a rat’s chance of getting taken.”

Everyone ends up in Nashville, Tennessee at the end. After many years with little communication or contact, June moves to help Grace after she’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Grace’s baby, now grown, lives in the city too. They may have already met. The Accidentals packs in plenty of details as chapters alternate points-of-view. It’s a lovely story about resilience, forgiveness and family bonds.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from William Morrow.

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book review: The Queen of Palmyra

Title: The Queen of Palmyra
Author: Minrose Gwin
ISBN: 978-0061840326
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
Review source: publisher
Rating: B

During her summer in the 60s, one would expect 11-year-old Florence Forrest to be enjoying some time with friends. Growing up in segregated Mississippi turns into a revealing, dangerous time where Florence’s educated, liberal mother runs a cake business out of her kitchen and takes her daughter across lines to a black bootlegger. Her hothead father jumps from job to job yet holds a mysterious secret in a locked box he keeps in the basement. When Florence’s mother escapes the abusive hands of her husband, Florence gets shuttled off to be cared for by her grandmother’s maid, Zenie, named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. Slowly, Florence discovers the truths about her parents as well as the strength and the resolve she herself possesses. Southern author Minrose Gwin utilizes a creative style and authentic voice to examine the outright hatred and racism, the hidden, brutal agenda of the KKK and the battle for civil rights in the South during the 1960s. The Queen of Palmyra delves into a young, impressionable girl’s self-awakening layer by layer in this tenacious debut novel.

Buy at AMAZON: The Queen of Palmyra: A Novel (P.S.)

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