Review: Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
February 15, 2011 § 6 Comments
I really enjoyed the audio Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez from Audible.com. Quincy Tyler Bernstine did such an amazing job narrating this and capturing and expressing the varying emotions of the characters. Quincy was really able to effectively present each character in a way that was relatable and gave me, as a reader, a real feel for that time period.
I thought Wench was an amazing debut novel. It tells the story of Tawana House, an American resort located in Ohio just before the Civil War. Tawana House was frequented by quite a few southern plantation owners who brought their slave mistresses with them which caused quite a bit of gossip for the northerners. Wench mainly focuses on the story of 4 particular women who are brought to Tawana House by their owners. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet, who have visited several times, are introduced to Mawu, whose unpredictable behavior and blunt honesty help the others to face some truths and begin to feel things they have never allowed themselves to feel. Most of all, hope.
One of the things that fascinated me the most was that Tawawa House actually existed. I guess that shouldn’t be so surprising, but I can see how learning about this place could inspire someone as talented as this author to tell its story. And I felt that Dolen Perkins-Valdez told it brilliantly. Even presenting such a painful subject as slavery and all the horrors that accompany it, while at times it was uncomfortable to read about, the characters were so engaging that I wanted to know their stories, however painful they may be. I was intrigued by the concept that, although these women were forced into a carnal relationship with their “owners” and even to have their children, some of the women considered themselves to be in love. The dynamic between all involved was as fascinating as it was disturbing. I was definitely presented with perspectives I had never before considered.
Overall, this was a beautifully written honest look at a painful period in history, but also a story about friendship, hope, and family. While Wench is in no way a fast paced novel, it is still a page-turner. What Dolen Perkins-Valdez does so well is present the complexities of those relationships between slave-owner-friends-family. All the shades of gray as well as what is inherently right and wrong in these situations are explored as well as how each individual character felt and reacted. I found it to be thought provoking and emotional, yet altogether satisfying. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys southern historical fiction.
Rating 4: I loved it and highly recommend it