From Publishers Weekly
In her debut, Perkins-Valdez eloquently plunges into a dark period of American history, chronicling the lives of four slave women—Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu—who are their masters' mistresses. The women meet when their owners vacation at the same summer resort in Ohio. There, they see free blacks for the first time and hear rumors of abolition, sparking their own desires to be free. For everyone but Lizzie, that is, who believes she is really in love with her master, and he with her. An extended flashback in the middle of the novel delves into Lizzie's life and vividly explores the complicated psychological dynamic between master and slave. Jumping back to the final summer in Ohio, the women all have a decision to make—will they run? Heart-wrenching, intriguing, original and suspenseful, this novel showcases Perkins-Valdez's ability to bring the unfortunate past to life. (Jan.)
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Four slave women accompany their masters to a resort in the free state of Ohio in the mid-1850s. Lizzie actually loves Drayle, the father of her two children—a brown-skinned boy named for his father and a girl white enough to pass. Reenie is the half sister of her owner, a cruel man who passes her along to the resort manager. Sweet is pregnant and has a relatively amiable relationship with her master, while Mawu is a wild red-haired woman bent on freedom from a cruel and violent owner. Frustrations mount as they consider their options, tempted to take advantage of the help offered by free blacks and a Quaker woman. But they are guilt-ridden about the prospect of leaving their children behind. The women rely on each other for support as they come together for three summers, catching up on their lives of woe and occasional joy. Drawing on research about the resort that eventually became the first black college, Wilberforce University, the novel explores the complexities of relationships in slavery and the abiding comfort of women’s friendships. --Vanessa Bush