Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Many books have been written about the South and slavery, but “Wench” puts a little different view on the subject.
“Wench” deals with fact-based history and adds the thoughts and emotions of someone who could have experienced it firsthand.

The story is set in 1852 at a resort in Ohio called “Tawawa House.” This resort is used as a summer retreat for Southern plantation owners and their slave mistresses. This part of the story is based on actual documented facts.

From this, author Dolen Perkins-Valdez weaves a fictional heart-wrenching tale of four slaves mistresses and their “masters.” She explores the complex relationship of each slave and their reactions to the people around them and the events unfolding at the time.

The story focuses on Lizzie, her interactions with two other slave mistresses, Reenie and Sweet, and their encounter with a fiery red-headed slave named Mawu their second summer at the resort.

Lizzie sees her situation different from the others. She believes herself in love with her “master,” Drayle, and that he loves her. She has bore his only two children, one a son that bears his name. Drayle has taught her to read, has moved her into his main house, he treats her kinder than any of his other slaves, and he takes her to Tawawa House without his white wife.

Lizzie believes he will one day set their children free and they won’t grow up as slaves. She holds fast to this belief and hasn’t considered seeking freedom for herself when at Tawawa House even though there are freed slaves nearby.

A series of events come about changing the lives of all who associate with Tawawa House. The reader is taken on a journey of suspension, betrayal, longing, and denial as the final days of Tawawa House play out.

Ms. Perkins-Valdez has done an excellent job of combining fact and fiction into this emotionally charged story. This debut novel could easily be turned into a series following the lives of Lizzie and her children long after Tawawa House.

On a historical note: The real resort was closed in 1855 and sold to the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They opened  the Ohio African University here in 1856. Today Wilberforce University is located on the site of Tawawa House. Wilberforce is the nation’s oldest, private, predominantly African-American university.

"Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdez; HarperCollins Publishers @2010; ISBN: 978-0-06-170654-7; Hardcover, 293 pages.


  1. I was thinking that Lizzie's hopes of having her children set free might not come true...could definitely imagine the betrayal part of the story. It sounds like a fascinating book.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Sounds like a really good book. Such a fascinating topic & a horrendous part of our history.

  3. Thanks for this terrific review, Mason! As a lover of history, I just know I'd love this one!

  4. Emma, thanks for stopping by and I glad you liked the post.

    Elizabeth, I could see a series of books from this. There are endless possibilities of the children's outcome as well as Lizzie.

    Teresa, it's a good read. (Love the new photo).

    Jemi, I think it gives us a different outlook on that time in our history.

    Margot, I think you'll enjoy this book. There were some unexpected twist and turns.

  5. Love the sound and feel of this book. I've actually put it on my must get and read soon list. Thanks for the 2 part post.

    Marvin D Wilson

  6. I am currently reading a book about slaves. This one sounds very interesting. I doubt there were many slaves in love with their masters.

  7. Marvin, it is quite an interesting book. The history is an added touch to the story.

    Janel, I agree there probably weren't many in love with their masters but I'm sure their emotions were on a roller coaster ride most of the time. Especially if the masters were kind to them like this one was to Lizzie.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.