Queenie’s Song, set in 1960s’ Tennessee, tells the story of a girl who hears voices and sees people who may not be there.
Aimee’s tenth birthday should have been a momentous occasion because now “it takes two separate strokes to write [her] age.” It is, in fact, special for a more dire reason: after Aimee returns home from school, she finds her mother has died.
The day after her birthday, Aimee is taken to live with her Aunt Delilah, and she meets a “strange looking, corn-rowed, little girl who’d suddenly appeared” named Queenie. Aimee believes her mom has sent Queenie as a gift, and she begins hearing other voices, as well.
This is a fanciful yet sometimes quite creepy tale. Readers will be drawn into Aimee and Queenie’s world as the two young girls become fast friends. Queenie comforts Aimee, helping her heal from her mother’s death, yet Queenie isn’t who she seems to be. Aimee, meanwhile, is likable but not always a reliable narrator, as she sometimes appears confused about what’s happening around her.
The novel’s prologue notes that the story draws on Voudun lore, and it seems to be about a procession of spirits, but the description of these spirits is vague, as are their actions. The epilogue is equally vague. That’s a shame because much of the rest of the novel is gorgeously written. The lush descriptions of Aimee’s inner world are particularly enticing. For example, “On days like this Aimee wished her life was different. Not so monotonously disappointing, but wonderful, like the ones the children on TV shows had… She wished her boring, friendless life could poof away like a flame on a blown-out candle, ushering in the darkness that always preceded the brilliance of her dreams.”
Queenie’s Song is ultimately about resilience and what it means to be family. Despite the story’s flaws, fans of gothic storytelling and myths will find many rewards in Aimee’s journey of self-discovery.