I have been wanting to read this book ever since my friend Beth told me about it earlier this year. I then had the chance to hear the author, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, speak at the UCF Bookfest in March of this year. She was kind and engaging and her reading was so riveting.
Wench is the story of four women really. These are black slave women, who are also mistresses to their masters. In the summer they travel from their homes in the South to Ohio, a free state. In Ohio they stay at a resort, Tawawa House. They each stay in a little cabin, behind the big house. Lizzy meets Reenie, Sweet and Mawu and the lives, loves and tragedies of the four lead this book.
Lizzy believes she loves her master, Drell, and she has two of his children. She dreams of the day that he may release them, how could he bear to see them as slaves? We learn all about Lizzy, how she came to be the favored slave. She and the other slave women share with each other their stories and while three of them are reconciled to their role as slave and mistress, Mawu is not. As they reunite over many summers they share news of their lives on the plantations. They open up to each other as time goes on. Mawu is a mysterious woman, who is earthy and talks of herbs and spells and when she starts talking about running away the future of all these women is changed.
This book took me into the lives and emotions of these black women. My heart ached for their enslavement and yet I understood how choosing to risk it all for freedom was also leaving behind family and some security. I learned so much about this common practice among masters and slaves. The author’s research and story are honest and ring true. I honestly cried in many parts of this book, wanting so much more for Lizzy and her friends.
I listened to the audio of this book, and the narration was wonderfully done by Robynne Young. I’m continually amazed at the voices and inflections of the narrators in audio books. This was spot on.
I gave this book a 5 out of 5 stars, I loved it so much. I urge you to read or listen to Wench.