Title: Wench: A Novel
Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Each year, Lizzie travels with Drayle to a resort in Ohio for the summer, spending her time catching up with her friends Sweet, Reenie and Mawu. However, this isn’t an ordinary vacation – all four of these women are slaves, but also mistresses to their masters. In Wench the reader learns about the plights of these women, their fears and doubts, but also their hopes and dreams of freedom.
I first heard about Wench from Bethanne Patrick, the Managing Editor of The Book Studio. She told me that this book was amazing and I simply had to read it. When a review offer came across my desk a couple of weeks later, I immediately accepted, based on Bethanne’s endorsement. And a few weeks after that, book in hand, I met Dolen Perkins-Valdez at an interview taping at The Book Studio. At that point, I already wanted to read the book, but after hearing Perkins-Valdez talk about Wench, I wanted to go home immediately and bury my nose in it.
I almost don’t know how to review this book because it is so beautifully written and so well done. Lizzie is an amazing character with a tremendous amount of heart. All of the women in Wench are three-dimensional and excellently developed, but it was Lizzie’s struggles that captured me. At the beginning of the book, she doesn’t want anything more for herself than what she has. All she wants is for Drayle to free their children, to allow them to live their lives as more than their father’s property. It’s an amazing selflessness that shows you how devoted Lizzie is to her children. As Perkins-Valdez takes the reader through Lizzie’s life outside of Ohio, and sees how she is with her children, it’s all the more heartbreaking.
Perkins-Valdez does an excellent job getting the reader in the minds of each of these women. The words leap from the page, as though spoken; the reader becomes friends with these women, comes to care for them. It’s a tremendous feat, considering the book is not very long. Perkins-Valdez writes each of these women with such care, it’s an absolutely wonderful experience.
A lot of people are raving about Wench, and with this review, I’ve joined their ranks. What really struck me about this book was how Perkins-Valdez tackles such a terrible topic as slavery, yet the book isn’t heavy or difficult to read. She writes about horrible things, but gives her characters dignity and grace such that this is a hopeful book full of vitality. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and is one that I hope you will experience for yourself.