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An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresseswench 'wench n from Middle English wenchel 1 a a girl maid young woman; a female childTawawa 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 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 secretLizzie 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 uestions 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 changeTo 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 eraAn engaging page turning and wholly original novel Wench explores with an unflinching eye the moral complexities of slavery


10 thoughts on “Wench

  1. says:

    Set in the mid 19th Century Wench offers a fictionalized account of a very real and strange practice Southern slaveowners would vacation in a particular Ohio resort and take slave women along as their vacation partners leaving their wives at home The story centers on several slave women their different backgrounds experiences with slavery and relationships with the masters All are used sexually but one Lizzie holds actual feelings for her owner Dolen Perkins Valdez from her Twitter pageThis is an engaging story one that offers some insight into what it might have been like to be a slave It raises uestions about the experience For example is it at all possible for a person who is regarded as chattel to have real affection for her owner however kind that man may be? Can a slave ever give herself freely to her owner or is any physical relationship rape by the nature of the relationship between the parties in the same way that society today considers sex between an adult and a minor rape because a minor is assumed not to have the ability to offer responsible consent? One might think that slaves brought to free Ohio would seize every opportunity to flee But what if their children were still back on the plantations as insurance for their return?I was engaged with the book pretty much for its entirety I uestioned a few decisions the author made for her characters wondering if they really would have acted in such a manner But overall this is a solid read offering payload in the form of a look at an odd aspect of the history of slavery in America EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal Twitter and FB pagesPerkins Valdez's subseuent novel Balm was released in 2015


  2. says:

    Wench was a book club choice and I was uite frustrated by it's selection I hate reading about slavery or anything connected to it It makes me uncomfortable sad and angry Further the idea that this story focused on the lives and relationships of four slave mistresses turned my stomach Needless to say I struggled with this book It was incredibly difficult for me to get through I read and put it down so many times that I often thought of not picking it up again but I kept coming back to it until I finished it several weeks later In the end it was well worth the emotional journey Even now many months after reading it I'm at a lost as to how to articulate why this book is so important a must read and the best book of 2010 for me There were so many moments I cringed wanted to cry even fight I realized that is a part of the book's charm the emotional roller coaster of reading it Not to mention the rich history Perkins Valdez weaves in so brilliantly She's an excellent writer I'm happy that I finished the book and am certain that I will never think about slavery and enslaved women the same ever again I am so grateful to have been challenged in this way


  3. says:

    Today I received my copy of Wench the new novel by Dolen Perkins Valdez I really loved this book And what a gorgeous coverThe novel is set at Tawawa House an actual Ohio resort where white plantation owners vacationed with their enslaved mistressesI know that there are some readers who are very tired of the American fixation with slave mistresses I know know where you are coming from However this novel is different For one thing Wench is the story of four women who are in the same situation This is a wonderfully modern twist on the historical novel The four friend structure a sly wink at Terry Mac allows us to see how different women respond to the conundrum of sexual slavery Never in all my reading have I ever seen enslaved mistresses talk to each other Their conversations will give you a lot to think aboutOne of my favorite scenes is when one of the women is saying how much she liked Tawawa House because we can spend time with our men Another woman says You know he's not your man don't you? A Tawawa House some women play house with their master while others plan escape This is a hard book to describe After reading it I feel weird using the word mistress I feel like we need a whole new vocabulary What do you call a woman who is in a sexual relationship with a man who can sell her kids if he feels like it? Are you a mistress if you travel to a resort vacation literally in chains? This book is not romantic nor is it preachy Dolen wrestles with the truth and doesn't blinkThe most impressive aspect of this story is Dolen's way of making you unsure of who is right and who has the best idea I read this novel is one greedy gulp The intellectual in me was intrigued by the historical matter The philosopher in me was roped in with uestions about the nature of freedom and progressFinally the part of me that curls up in a slanket well she stayed up late at night reading because I just had to know what was going to happen next


  4. says:

    Reading WENCH reuired me to constantly push aside my modern sensibilities Knowing what enslaved women had to endure and in many instances convince themselves of in order to simply survive and maintain some sense of sanity is hard to accept Lizzie is the perfect example of the divided and sometimes misguided loyalties that many slave women had to face Taken from the only home that she had known and placed on a new plantation at a very young age Lizzie doesn't have any semblance of a childhood Lack of affection courtesy and any positive attention Lizzie is ripe for being emotionally manipulated by her master What put a little knife in my heart is the fact that a very young Lizzie is easily seduced by minimal kindness and glasses of water The four women followed in this story all have very different and uniue personalities They are all handling their stations in life differently but with one common thread None of them have any say over their lives or the lives of the people they love; not even their children Of the four women only Lizzie has any affection for the man who holds her in bondage Because of her conflicting loyalties it takes her a while to figure out her real place in the world and I found that just as frustrating as the other three women in the story I had to remind myself that Lizzie is forced into womanhood and motherhood so uickly and at such a young age that she had to find a way to cope with what happens to her Convincing herself that Drayle cares for her and her children makes things tolerable However Lizzie's willful blindness cause great harm to other people who should have been able to count on her Although I did enjoy WENCH there were a few circumstances left unfinished and I have some unanswered uestions that I would have liked to have had filled in The story ends abruptly and I just didn't feel as if the story was finished If it had been an ebook instead of a physical book I would have sworn the last of the story hadn't downloaded WENCH was published in 2010 and there is no follow up as of yet which is a shame I would have loved to have gotten a story for Reenie and Mawu although I know that Mawu's story would be gut wrenching Where you can find me•♥•Monlatable Book Reviews•♥•Twitter monicaisreadingInstagram readermonicaGoodreads Group The Black Bookcase


  5. says:

    Edited 102112 If you are considering reading this book and are cruising 'round reviews then consider reading The Book of Night Women instead It is infinitely better although it will break your heart and stomp on the pieces original review My thoughts Should a writer take the most boring character and make her tell the story? Should I write that? Probably not But damn I didn't want to hear any about mealy mouthed Lizzie Give me Mawu crazy assed Mawu with the black skin and the violently red hair Or tell me about Reenie born for suffering And don't forget to fill me in on Sweet the woman who grieves by sewing day in and out Just don't give me Elizabeth the unsure the hesitant Because I just didn't really care enough about her even if she could read and endure Give me a voice strong enough to burn the book down around my head But maybe it's my fault And now cue the spoiler alert My middle sister picked this book She always picks tragic books With children But she's consistent She liked this book okay but she was most disturbed about view spoilera woman having sex while still miscarrying hide spoiler


  6. says:

    Lizzie is a woman in love on holiday with her lover a man married to someone else or is she? What happens to these phrases when we add that Lizzie is a slave and her 'lover' is her master? Wench confronts this problem from Lizzie's perspectiveInside the cottage Lizzie felt human She could lift her eyes and speak the English Drayle had taught her She could run her hands along the edges of things in the parlour – two chairs a sofa a wooden table a tall oil lamp with a milkglass base a cast iron stove – as if they were hers And she could sitIf Lizzie's occasional access to such simple pleasures is exceptional for a slave Perkins Valdez leaves us in no doubt about the limited extent of her privileges when on the very next page we read her rehearsing a calm reuest but then begging Drayle to free their children the only ones he has fathered Drayle sidesteps avoiding the uestion There's never the slightest suggestion of euality in their relationship; though Drayle sometimes makes an effort to keep Lizzie sweet she is his servant at all times and in all ways Reading community reviews of this book I can see that many readers found the topic extremely painful and difficult to read The ambiguities and implications of Lizzie and her children's status make this a deeply uncomfortable bookHowever there are a lot of things that make it an enjoyable book less harsh I felt than other slave stories Chiefly there is friendship No doubt about this The relationships Lizzie has with Mawu Philip Reenie and Sweet are troubled at times but they are real strong and meaningful to her Her attraction to Mawu is especially beautifully written at times with sweet hints of eroticism Mawu herself the novel's most vibrant character lifts the book as much as she does the social life of the group of slaves leavening their lives with her sharp tongue her magical cooking her unsubdued spirit When Lizzie looks at her she wonders if she has ever been beaten because she holds herself so boldly but it turns out that Mawu's life has been full of extreme suffering including many beatings Three of her four children have been sold only one boy has not because a brain injury has made him less saleable This reminded me of Kindred in which the cook has only been able to keep one of her children a deaf girl Wench reminded me of My Brilliant Friend and Code Name Verity because of the shared strategy of having the viewpoint character admire a bolder friend I appreciate this move because it's much easier for me to relate to a fairly timid and ordinary person in awe of someone impressive and charismatic than to imagine myself into the shoes of such a fabulous personTwo white women are important in Lizzie's life Drayle's wife Fran who is typical of master's wives in being neurotic jealous and annoying making Lizzie into 'a giant ear' attempting to sell her behind Drayle's back making temporary pets of her children and generally being a royal pain in the ass but there are moments when a flicker of empathy appears in her such as when the trader gropes Lizzie in front of her and she 'looks nervously out of the window' and decisively when she protects her from Drayle's attentions when she is sick view spoilerafter drinking a concoction that brings on abortion hide spoiler


  7. says:

    I've put off reading this book for such a long time because I just didn't want to read another slave story But this is far than the life of slave women in the 1800's This is a story surrounding the power strength courage of four women; the safe haven found in true friendships and ties that bind the afflicted Most of the story takes place in free Ohio at Tawawa Resort where slavemasters vacationed in the summer with their slave mistresses leaving their wives behind at home What I found painstakingly profound was that these women vacationed in a free state and boarded the coach back to their enslaved southern states each summer The love for their families children other slaves back home surely outweighed their temptation for freedom just beyond the resorts boundaries | perhaps whites did not understand how it felt not to be able to go where one wanted to go dress how one wanted to dress They took simple things like movement for granted LizzieHistorical Fact Tawawa Resort opened in 1852 and closed in 1855 The land and the surrounding area was sold to the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Churchand it established the Ohio African University in 1856 Enrollment declined with the onset of the Civil War and the original campus closed In 1863 the property was purchased by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was renamed Wilberforce University


  8. says:

    I gave this book 2 stars because I am still waiting for a conclusion to this book I kept reading hoping that the I read the better it would get but that didn't happen Some of the stories of the characters fell to the side or didn't develop fully there was very little development and disheartening that the main character LizzieEliza never really realized her worth as a woman in the story To the bitter end even knowing what being a slave vs a free black woman meant and who were her oppressors she still pined for the love of her master That is how it came across to me yes it was Stockholm syndrome to a degree After being captive so long she started to feel a sense of sordid love for him he chose her above everyone he treated her right but did he really? There were moments of clarity when she could see that she was nothing than a slave to him but they were blurred by false words of love Ridiculousevery slave arrived to the point that they learned that they were nothing than cattle and freedom was the ultimate goal not a life of servitude Lizzie's inability to find freedom frustrated me I wanted the character to develop so much but true to the title all she remained was a wench I would recommend this if only you want a uick read briefly touches on the cruelties of slavery with the acts of a few bad masters there is no real love in this novel just a great sense of loss that could have been developed into a lot


  9. says:

    I saw an article that Dolen Perkins Valdez was speaking about her book here in Durham I had never heard of her or her book but a book about a resort in Ohio where Southern men brought their slaves as escorts was an interesting topic so my wife and I joined 25 black people and 10 other whites in a local church to hear what she had to say Perkins Valdez had been told by a writing teacher to look for materials in books in obituaries She didn't like reading obits She did however run across a footnote some where that mentioned Tawawa House a resort in Southern Ohio a free state where Southern masters brought their slaves without their wives More than cooking and mending went on Fascinated she researched and found that it had existed and had failed prior to the Civil War because Northerners didn't like being around the Southern slave owners It became a school and eventually Wilberforce College None of the original building remain and the springs for which people came have dried upPerkins Valdez was an engaging speaker She mentioned that slavery had many secrets and that her black college roommate had only recently told her that she was descended from former president Andrew Johnson That fact had been hidden in the family handed down through the females but never made public because of the shame that incest was involved With her research skills Dolen was able find that the Johnson ancestry was true and the incest was not So many stories hidden awaySo now onto the book It was interesting in that it portrayed some of the ambiguities of slavery Other reasons besides fear could keep a slave woman from leaving her master Perhaps affection? Perkins Valdez is ambiguous on this point with her main character Lizzie That being said I did not find the book that engaging One of the main things that bothered me is that many of the things she discribed did not ring true For instance Lizzie several times confides in white people and suffers each time I would think that even by the age of 13 she would know to hide her feelings She refers to driveways A word that dates to 1865 70 10 years after the story chicken wire that was invented after 1947 This just seemed sloppy writing and I felt the characters were developed in a sloppy way also I thought the topic was interesting but the book was notPlease read the comments of Sue below from 12912 who points out some inconsistencies in my review and my response to her comments


  10. says:

    I enjoyed this book but only up to a point The subject matter was uite gripping but I found it an almost there book rather than a completely satisfying read I found the prose a bit prosy; flat and straightforward and not always in a good way The characters were interesting but did not uite come alive; even Lizzie the main character who was the most developed somehow was not completely well rounded The biggest disappointment was the ending because it made no sense to me Many loose ends were left untied and I had no idea what Lizzie was facing or how her life would pan out or most importantly what she was thinking when she made the choice she did A sense of resolution was lacking But I did find it an easy read and I liked learning about the lives of the slave women; the book includes details that bring their situation to life However there were instances where it did not ring true why Lizzie loved her slave ownerlover for instance I'm absolutely sure this could have happened even given that he did not treat her well but what I found lacking was insight Lizzie's insight into why she kept loving him or loved him at all plus scenes and descriptions vivid enough to make me see what the attraction was In general this book though good enough seemed to remain on the surface of things especially people's emotions