Book Review: Wench

Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Published in 2010
294 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Amistad
ISBN:  006170654X

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.

Other reviewer’s thoughts on this book:

Books for Breakfast

The Book Book

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Wench”

  1. This is the first I have heard of this book, but it sounds really good. I’m going to have to add this to my wish list. I love books where you get so connected to the characters that you hope they are okay at the end!! This sounds like my kind of book! Thanks for the review!

  2. Kailana: It’s a really good book. I hope you get a chance to read it.

    Bermudaonion: I can’t wait to read your thoughts when you do.

    Heidenkind: It is!

    Jennifer: Thanks for visiting!

    Carrie: Thanks!

  3. I really enjoyed your review. I have only seen the cover of this one so I actually had no idea what it was about. I’m adding it to my list!

  4. Only a really good book makes you wonder about the characters after you are done reading it. This was already on my list to read and even more so now!

  5. Yes you can’t help but wonder, but I think we all know nothing good is coming to them. I felt really bad for Lizzie, she has no hope by the end of the book because she knows Drayle’s relationship with her isn’t love but she has no way to break free form him. He offers her children very little (although I guess he does say he’ll send him to school) and I was so worried about her daughter who might be send to the fields.

    1. I’m hoping something good happens to the characters especially with the Civil War coming in just a few years after the story ended. Lizzie definitely knows how Drayle feels now and her and the children. I’ve definitely worried about the daughter, Rabbit, since she’s a girl and Drayle wants to use her as an anchor for her brother.

  6. Looks like a good, but heart-wrenching, book. I wouldn’t have guessed what it was about, though, from the cover — for one thing the dress and hat doesn’t match the civil-war era (or soon before). I’ll keep my eyes open for it!

  7. I’ve heard good things in non-book blogger arenas, so I’m happy to see a blogger confirming that! 😀

  8. I so want to read this book, and have had it on my wish list for awhile. I also don’t read many books about slavery, but this one has such an interesting pretext that I can’t resist. I am glad to hear that you got attached to some of the characters, it’s always nice when that happens 🙂
    Great review!

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