Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a book that is powerful in it’s telling and it will have your emotions bouncing back and forth between being horrified at the events to admiration and hope for these strong and enduring people. Wench is a story of slavery focusing on one woman in particular, Lizzie, a mother and a slave with the story alternating between the present and Lizzie’s past.
Lizzie’s story is told with such depth and feeling that your heart aches for her. Really the author portrays all her characters -Sweet, Reenie, Mawu, Phillip and others in such a way that you feel you are inside these characters seeing and feeling the horrors they have endured and continue to throughout the novel. More of the story is told of Lizzie though and it is to her I feel a special attachment. She was a brave,caring and stood up for what she wanted even if it meant suffering herself . She was trapped in a life of slavery as were her children like so many others during that time in the 1800’s.
Every summer Lizzie’s master Drayle took her to a summer resort in Ohio. Lizzie looked forward to this trip but hated leaving her children behind. It is here that she meets the women Sweet, Reenie and Mawu that become her friends. These women are all mistresses of their masters; their lives revolve around making sure these men are taken care of. However at this resort they are exposed to seeing free blacks and begin to hear about abolition which starts them on the path of thinking of their own freedom and that it might be possible. That is all but Lizzie, who truly feels she is in love with her master and he with her. She doesn’t want to leave him but even more than that she will not leave her children behind.
The emotional and physical abuse these women suffer at the hands of their masters is atrocious and disturbing to say the least. The women dream of a different life; a life where they are free to do what they want – to just live and be happy without the fear that rules their lives. It’s hard to believe but Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu are actually favored slaves. Lizzie especially seems to have a better life in that she has her own room in the family home and receives many favors that the other slaves at home can only dream about. Yet she is still trapped in a life where her every move is controlled. What isn’t controlled though is her mind – that is still hers. What will these women decide to do – will they risk their very lives and run?
To know that this kind of abuse actually occurred in our history is even more horrific. Many times throughout reading this book my heart just fell. It’s hard for us today to imagine living through what they did and truthfully I don’t think I would have been able to. I find it very hard to read about people being treated so horribly yet at the same time I know how important it is to read novels like Wench because it keeps alive in our minds that this can never happen again to anyone.
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a story that will stay with you long after you close the cover on the last page. My mind is still full of thoughts on these women and all the men and women who endured lives of slavery. This book captured my heart. Yes it’s hard to read but at the same time the strength of these women inspired me. I would definitely recommend the novel Wench without any hesitation. It will be one of my favorites this year!
I read Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez for her book tour with TLC Book Tours. You can see what others thought of the novel at the other tour stops. Be sure to stop in and visit Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s website as well as finding her on Twitter: @dolen. You can purchase your own copy of Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez here in the US and here in Canada. Check back on Saturday when I post a giveaway for this wonderful novel!
© 2010, Darlene of Peeking Between the Pages. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Peeking Between the Pages or Darlene’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
My copy of Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez was received for review from TLC Book Tours and the publisher.
Sandy Nawrot says
It is so hard to imagine this happened in our country, and makes us appreciate how far we've come. When I first read this review at Heather's, it reminded me of Cane River, a book I read a couple of months ago for a book club.
(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea says
I liked this book a lot when I read it; nice review Dar.
It's on my tbr list. Thanks for your review, Dar.
Dar, your review was really well written and thoughtful, and focuses on a lot of aspects that I thought were particularly important and disturbing as well. I am glad to hear that you liked the book, and do agree that it's an important piece of literature that more people should be reading.
I'm so glad to see that you enjoyed this book Dar…I loved it too!
I hope to read this book at some point. It sounds very moving and thought provoking.
Wall-to-wall books says
Wow Dar! This was a great review. It sounds like a great book! Going on my TBR list! Thanks!
I never knew about the practice of taking slaves on trips like that until I started reading about this book. I'm glad to see the story being told. Great review!
I agree, this is a powerful story and one that must never be repeated.
Katy F. says
I read this last year, and it made my best of 2010 list. It really is moving and will stick with you long after you've finished reading.
This one always catches my eye. I don't know why I haven't picked it up yet. It sounds so moving.
I almost didn't read your review, but the cover caught my attention and I had to find out more. sounds like quite the story that does noeed to be told. Thanks for sharing.
I have this book on my wish list!
I must read this one. I knew it would be gut-wrenching and disturbing so I just have to pick the right time for it!
I didn't always know what book this was since the cover was different.
A book I would like to read and see for myself
Rebecca Rasmussen says
One of your favorites this year? Well, then it is definitely going to the top of my pile, Dar. Thank you so much honey! I hope you are doing well these days! XOX
Teddy Rose says
This book has been on my TBR for quite sometime now. I know I will love it. Great review!
I chose Wench for my book club but we won't be reading it for awhile. Glad you enjoyed it.
On another note, we got a puppy! Her name is Chloe. As you may or not recall, I am a total cat person so it's taking a bit of getting used to. She's 6 months (we think) since she was a shelter rescue. Wish us luck!
nomadreader (Carrie) says
I just picked this one up at the library and am really looking forward to it. The subject matter fascinates me, and I have to discover this world even as I'm horrified by it!
This book has been on my wish list for a long time … it looks like I should move it to the very top!
Thanks for being on this tour. I'm so glad the book had such an impact on you (even though it is hard to read at time because of the content) and I can't wait to pick it up myself.
I like this cover so much more! This sounds like an awesome book.
Cinnamon owl says
This book is on my reading list! It sounds amazing.
I want to read this one a lot! It sounds like one of those books that I just need to read (if that makes any sense 😉 Great review!
Jenny Girl says
Excellent review and I totally agree with having to read these horrific stories. I am so sorry I couldn't fit this one into my reading schedule. I will definitely look for it next time I'm at the store. Thanks Darlene.
Alice Teh says
I remembered reading a few reviews of this book and it has been on my to-read list ever since. I'm glad to hear about it here again on your blog.
An interesting story dealing with the lives of four Negro women slaves whose masters take them to a “free” state for a so-called vacation from their plantations. We learn the life stories of each of these women who return each season to share a little more about their lives.