Monday, March 29, 2010

#BookReview: Wench - Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Rarely does a book leave me speechless.  I've sat down to write about Wench no less than four times and each time had to get up and walk away because there's so much to say and yet, I'm not sure of how to say it.  Make no mistake about it, I absolutely loved this book.  So many of you told me you couldn't wait for me to read it so that I could share my thoughts with you.  Now I have to wonder if you all set me up.  Did the book have the same effect on those of you that read it?

For those that have not, Wench is the story of four women that meet annually at Tawawa House, an Ohio resort that caters to white slaveowners and their slave mistresses.  The eldest slave, Reenie, is mistress to her brother who sold their only child at a young age.  Sweet has three sons and a daughter by her master and is pregnant with her fifth child.  Lizzie has born a son and daughter for her master, Drayle.  The women seem to have accepted their lots in life until Mawu joins them.  A rebellious slave from Louisiana, Mawu hates her master and longs for the day when she will be free. 

Though the book touches on each woman's story and circumstances, a great portion deals with Lizzie and her perception of her relationship with Drayle.  In her heart of hearts, she loves Drayle and believes that he loves her as well.  On the outside looking in, it appears that their relationship is based on tit for tat.  If you do this for me, I'll do that for you. Starting with cool drinks of water on hot nights, teaching her to read, bringing her extra food, Drayle slowly works his way into Lizzie's heart and by the time Drayle comes for her, she truly believes theirs is a mutual love and admiration.  Lizzie's belief in Drayle is so great that she risks the lives of the women around her at Tawawa House and finds herself excluded from the small group. 

So what was it that made these slaveowners think that they could bring their slaves into a free state without risking escape?  Fear.  With the exception of Reenie, each of the women had children back on the plantation.  Knowing that any action taken by them could result in their children being sold away was more than enough to keep these women in their place.

What did you like about this book?
I loved how the author developed the women.  While the men did play roles in their lives, they were secondary to who the women were as people.

What did you dislike about this book?
It wasn't a dislike, but I wanted to know more of the back story for all of the women, not just Lizzie.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I don't think any improvements need to be made, but I would love to see a sequel.

So now I really, really want to discuss this.  There's so much that I want to say here, but won't because I know that while quite a few of us have read it, several have not.  Are we up for a book discussion in the near future?  Should I ask the author if she's willing to chat with us about it?

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