Queenie’s Place by Toni Morgan
Publication Date: December 6, 2018 Adelaide Books Publishers Paperback & eBook; 302 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Queenie’s Place, set in rural North Carolina in the early seventies, is the story of an unusual sisterhood between a thirty-something white woman from California and a fifty-something black woman from the south. From the moment Doreen Donavan sees the “Welcome to Klan Country” sign outside Goldsboro, North Carolina is one culture shock after another. She thinks the women she meets on the military base, where she and her family now live, are the dullest, stuffiest, most stuck-up women she’s ever run across, and frankly, they don’t think much of her either. She’s hot, miserable, and bored. Then one day, BAM, her car tire goes flat, right in front of a roadhouse outside the town of Richland, near where MCB Camp Puller is located. Inside, Queenie is holding forth at the piano. The place is jumping. Besides the music, there’s dancing and the best barbecue in North Carolina. Doreen’s husband, Tom arrives and must practically peel her out of the place. Queenie doesn’t expect to see Doreen again, but Doreen comes back and their unlikely friendship begins. Without warning, Queenie’s place is closed, the women accused of prostitution and bootlegging. A born crusader (she cut her teeth demonstrating against the Vietnam War—yes, even with her husband over there), Doreen quickly dons her armor and saddles up. Things don’t go quite as planned.
Doreen and family arriving in eastern North Carolina and the town outside Marine Corps Base Camp Puller and Tom’s new assignment:
After six long days of driving, with Tom still half-feral from his thirteen months in the jungles of Vietnam—silent one moment and boisterous the next, jumping at the slightest noise—Billy in the back seat with his nose buried in one of his comic books, ignoring us and determined to remain on a path of semi-passive rebellion, and me struggling with my guilt for this move, we finally arrived in the part of North Carolina where MCB Camp Puller was located.
I’d never seen country so flat. In California, if not the ocean, then mountains, cliffs or rolling hills filled the horizon. Here, the highway stretched out in front of us like a long grey ribbon between stands of loblolly pines—toothpick trees Tom called them—and tobacco fields that seemed to go on and on. I had the surreal feeling there wasn’t anything holding us down, that we might simply lift off the pavement and fly into nothingness. I closed my eyes and tried to shake the vision from my head. After a while, I must have dozed. When I woke, my eyes locked on a sign looming high above yet another field:
WELCOME TO KLAN COUNTRY
My responsibility for Tom’s transfer to Camp Puller, because of my anti-war protest marches, were forgotten. I whipped around to face Tom. “My God, what kind of place have you brought us to? What kind of people would advertise their own racism?”
Billy leaned over the seat. “How come they spelled clan with a k?”
Tom ignored our questions. Although he kept his eyes on the road, the muscle in his cheek twitched, a sure sign he was upset—whether with me or the sign, I didn’t know. Right then, I didn’t care.
We traveled on in silence. Billy went back to his comics. I continued to brood about the sign and the future.
Billy spoke up. “That sign was about the Ku Klux Klan, wasn’t it?”
I glanced over my shoulder and nodded at him.
“We’ll be living on base, though, right? Not in town?”
I nodded again.
He leaned back in his seat, appearing satisfied the Klan wouldn’t be something he needed to add to his list of worries.
By the time we drove into Richfield, the town outside Camp Puller, it was early afternoon, and I’d managed to regain my determination to find a bright side to this move. “Put your comic book away Billy. This is Church Street we’re coming to. I bet we’ll see one of those beautiful old southern churches surrounded by hundred-year-old magnolia trees.”
“Yeah.” He didn’t bother looking up.
Tom wasn’t buying our son’s rude behavior any longer. “You’re beginning to overstate your position, Billy.” I knew by his tone he was about one more ‘yeah’ away from losing his temper entirely. “I know you’ll miss your friends in California. I know you’re sore about losing your spot on the baseball team, but we’re going to live in North Carolina now. Get used to it.”
“Tom…” I hesitated, not finishing my thought, but I wanted to warn him that he needed to ease up, that Billy needed a little more time. Our son had run out of time as far as Tom was concerned.
“No, Doreen. We’ve been patient long enough.” He looked at Billy in the rearview mirror. “You got that, son? I want that attitude of yours changed and I want it changed now.”
“Yes, sir.” Tom didn’t pull rank often, but when he did, Billy got it.
“Good. Now do what your mother said.”
Billy put Captain America and the War of the World on the seat next to him as we turned onto Church Street.
My breath caught in my throat. All I saw were bars and tattoo parlors. Three scantily dressed women, hands, arms, and hips all in motion, stood laughing and talking in front of a bar advertising Go-Go dancers. A fellow with a Marine haircut strolled up to them. One of the three broke from the group and went inside with him. A man with a mean look on his hatchet-thin face came from inside the bar and spoke to the other two. He grabbed the smaller one’s arm, said something to her then went back inside. She made a face at his back and the other woman laughed.
About the Author
A longtime military spouse, TONI MORGAN has lived in many parts of the US and also for nearly four years in rural Japan. There she had the good fortune to work part-time in a Japanese pottery factory. That rich experience led to the first in her WWII trilogy ECHOES FROM A FALLING BRIDGE, which gives a unique view of life in rural Japan during the war. Second in the trilogy is HARVEST THE WIND, partially set in a Japanese internment camp in Idaho’s Magic Valley. The third in the series is LOTUS BLOSSOM UNFURLING, which continues the saga after the war ends. She also wrote PATRIMONY, and TWO-HEARTED CROSSING, companion books set in Montreal Quebec Canada during the Quebec Separatist Movement and 20 years later, in northern Idaho. Her novel QUEENIE’S PLACE is a 2019 National Book Award in Literature nominee. Her short stories have appeared in various literary magazines and journals, and her short story “Tin Soldier” was included in MOORING AGAINST THE TIDE, a creative fiction and poetry textbook published by Prentice Hall. Her most recent release is BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE, a collection of short stories, including Pushcart Prize nominee “The House on East Orange Street” and the aforementioned “Tin Soldier.”
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, March 15
Review at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 16
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, March 17
Interview at Passages to the Past
Friday, March 19
Feature at View from the Birdhouse
Saturday, March 20
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews
Monday, March 22
Excerpt at Bookworlder
Wednesday, March 24
Review at YA, It’s Lit
Friday, March 26
Guest Post at Novels Alive
Saturday, March 27
Review at Reading is My Remedy
Sunday, March 28
Interview at Reader_ceygo
Monday, March 29
Review at Reader_ceygo
Wednesday, March 31
Interview at Jathan & Heather
Thursday, April 1
Review at American Historical Novels Book Club
Friday, April 2
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
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