Six slaves sat in a triangle, three women, three men, the men half nestles in the sticky heat of thighs, straining their heads away from the pain of the tightly woven ropes. . .
What made me check Wench out from the library was all the positive reviews I’ve read about it but what made me read it was a library due date. I don’t read many books about slavery but felt like I needed to give this book a try.
Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are three enslaved women who travel to Ohio with their masters every summer to stay at Tawawa House, a resort. What makes Tawawa House so different from others in this pre-Civil War time is that white slave owners can share their cottages with the slaves they’ve forced to be their mistresses while leaving their wives at home. One summer there’s a new slave owner visiting the resort and the women met Mawu, a slave who dreams of escaping from her master and becoming free especially when freedom is so close; Ohio was a free state though swarmed with slave-catchers. The women hear Mawu’s talk of freedom, but have no idea what to make of it. To be free means so many things particularly the ability to choose their own destiny but it also means leaving behind their children and other loved ones.
Though the book gives the reader a few insights into Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu it mostly follows Lizzie, a house slave and mistress to Drayle. Lizzie became Drayle “mistress” at the age of thirteen and produced two kids by him. She swears Drayle loves her though he refuses to free their children from slavery; though every time he does something nice for her, she has to repay the favor later on whether she wants to or not. After spending time talking to Mawu, observing what both Reenie and Sweet go through with their owners, readers observe a slow change in the way that Lizzie thinks but not enough to satisfy.
Perkins-Valdez is a talented author who succeeds in getting readers to place themselves into this horrible time in American history. I didn’t connect to Lizzie at all but I did connect to the experiences of all four women: incest, rape, being used as a toy, the sale of their children, betrayal. . . Throughout the book I couldn’t help but think what would I do if I lived at that time, in this situation or that one. The character that I connected most to was Mawu, a young woman who’s had her children sold from her over and over again by a man who wants to possess Mawu in every way possible. Who sees her as a challenge, not as a human being.
Though I know these characters are not real, after reading the last sentence and closing the book, I couldn’t help but wonder would they be okay.
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