Harper Collins Publishers
Review copy provided by publisher
After I reviewed Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP, a publisher sent me WENCH, the debut novel of Dolen Perkins-Valdez. "If you loved THE HELP," she said, "you'll loved this one too." And she was absolutely right.
WENCH is the story of Lizzie, a slave owned by Master Drayle. Drayle's wife, Francesca, is unable to have children, and Drayle has chosen Lizzie as his mistress or wench. She has borne him two children. Each summer, Lizzie and Drayle travel to Tawawa, a resort in Northern Ohio, where wealthy slave owners live openly with their slave mistresses. At Tawawa, Lizzie becomes friends with Reenie and Sweet, two women in similar circumstances. Even though Ohio is a free state, Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet, do not question their lives. They are treated reasonably well by their owners. They have left their own children and other family members at their respective plantations and look forward to returning to them. All of this changes, however, the summer Lizzie, Reenie and Sweet meet Mawu, another slave. Mawu wants to be free, and she knows how it can be done. She pushes the others to consider their choices and accompany her to escape to freedom.
I love historical fiction because it brings me to whole new understandings of different times and places, and this book was no exception. Yeah, I knew that slave owners did whatever they wanted with their slaves and often had children with them, but I never thought much about the men having long-term relationships, or taking their slave mistresses on vacations. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet have to make hard, hard decisions about freedom, about family and ultimately about who they want to be as human beings. And then there is the whole women and friendship aspect, which I always love…
Yeah, I totally agree with the person who provided me with this book, "If you loved THE HELP, you will also love WENCH…