Such a beautiful cover, and original premise, I had high hopes for Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. The bottom line? It wasn't for me.
Synopsis from Harper Collins:
An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresses.
Tawawa House in many respects is like any other American resort before the Civil War. Situated in Ohio, this idyllic retreat is particularly nice in the summer when the Southern humidity is too much to bear. The main building, with its luxurious finishes, is loftier than the white cottages that flank it, but then again, the smaller structures are better positioned to catch any breeze that may come off the pond. And they provide more privacy, which best suits the needs of the Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their black, enslaved mistresses. It's their open secret.
Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars at Tawawa House. They have become friends over the years as they reunite and share developments in their own lives and on their respective plantations. They don't bother too much with questions of freedom, though the resort is situated in free territory–but when truth-telling Mawu comes to the resort and starts talking of running away, things change.
To run is to leave behind everything these women value most–friends and families still down South–and for some it also means escaping from the emotional and psychological bonds that bind them to their masters. When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, the women of Tawawa House soon learn that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the most inhuman, brutal of circumstances–all while they are bearing witness to the end of an era.
An engaging, page-turning, and wholly original novel, Wench explores, with an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.
I gave this novel four solid days and 75 pages. While the writing was honest and original, the harsh realities of slavery are tough to swallow. I was touched by the plight of the four women slaves, and became enraged at their situation, but I found myself often too horrified to pick the book back up, which is why I had to abandon it.
I always say that if a book makes you FEEL, it has succeeded in connecting to its readers. In this sense, yes, Perkins-Valdez reached her mark. This book made me feel, unfortunately, it was guilt and horror of a time of which I was not in the right frame to read. Not for me, not right now.
I am grateful, though, to Harper Collins for giving me the opportunity to read this book. Wench may not have been for me, but for my readers who are interested in reading a full review, feel free to visit some of my book blogging friends' reviews. (Found through Book Blogs Search Engine)
Dolen Perkins-Valdez's fiction and essays have appeared in Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories 2009 , The Kenyon Review , PMS: PoemMemoirStory , North Carolina Literary Review , and the Richard Wright Newsletter . She is a former University of California postdoctoral fellow and graduate of Harvard. Dolen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.
About the Book: Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Amistad (January 5, 2010)
FTC Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.