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Wench: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – January 25, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (January 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061706566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061706561
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a former University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow and graduate of Harvard. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, she now lives in Washington, DC. WENCH is her debut novel. You can follow the author at http://facebook.com/writerdolen or visit her website at http://www.dolenperkinsvaldez.com

Customer Reviews

The ending felt like it came out of left field.
I. Schneider
I found this novel to be very interesting, learned a lot of history about slavery and the effect it had on the female slaves especially.
N. Jones
I loved the characters and the story line were very well developed The story will capture your interest until the end.
Barbara Morgan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

208 of 214 people found the following review helpful By Tavares S. Carney VINE VOICE on January 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dolen Perkins-Valdez delivers the gripping tale of primary characters, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu's, lives as slave maids and mistresses during the mid-19th century. Although from separate southern plantations, the mistresses vacation with their white masters to a free-state resort in Ohio each summer, forming a sisterly bond and developing relationships with each other.

Suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their "owners," the women grow weary, often dreaming of their and their children's freedom. While each of the women has a unique relationship with her respective master, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu share the bond of slavery and mistreatment. Despite the seeming perks each wench receives over all the other slaves at their home plantations, each woman still finds herself living in misery. This story brings readers into the heart-wrenching decisions, painstaking moments and emotional turmoil endured by each of the women as they struggle to save themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally. They walk a fine line of favor with their masters. Should the women stay, or should they run, when the opportunity is staring them right in the face?

This story is unlike any other story I've read about slave women and children. Yes, I've heard the stories and knew these type things happened but never have I been drawn into the minds of the women that have lived this life. Themes of particular interest to me while reading this story were the relationship between the master's wife, Fran, and Lizzy. Lizzy's character is also of the most interest to me in that she was quite indecisive. I understood her indecision. I felt these women's pain and suffering.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this book down. Rarely does a book capture my attention the way Wench did. After I started reading this book I left my chores undone, ignored the work on my desk and stayed up late at night reading. I have such mixed feelings about the pleasure I took in this book because it covers a horrible topic. Yet the author took such care telling the stories of four slave women forced into sexual relationships with their master. You must not miss the stories of Lizzie, Sugar, Reenie and Mawu. They share their lives with the reader and you come to care deeply about them before the reading is done. What the white masters did to these women is terrible yet the women handle it grace and strength that I myself do not have. My only hope is that the author plans a sequel because the story is just too good to end.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Amy R. Murrell on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Dolen Perkins-Valdez does a great job portraying the setting and the characters - providing details that bring the story to life, without being superlative. As I was reading, I shed several tears. I smiled some too - and, many times, I felt a host of mixed emotions concurrently. Perkins-Valdez does a great job of showing the complexity of humanity in her characters - allowing her readers to think about themselves in a very real manner. The novel compelled me to think about several issues in more intricate ways. The words led me to think about history and slavery, but also love and strength, in subtle yet powerful ways. I read a lot, and I have written a good deal too. I know that this much vitality in a novel is hard to find. I found Wench to be very well-done. I had a hard time putting it down. My only complaint is that I wasn't ready for it to end.
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77 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Thea Laveau on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The premise of novel about slave women set in resort with this history was wonderful - the writing was just a shame. Characters black and white were poorly sketched and the author did nothing to explore the vast class system among slaves.

A favored mistress from Louisiana would have likely been French-speaking and likely well schooled in fashion and flirtation. A slave owned by a Tennessee farmer, would have had a completely different background. It would have been wonderful to see these differences explored - or at least acknowledged by the author. Instead we just get cardboard cutouts.

This is Alice Walker meets Harlequin.

For truly wonderful books that explore black culture in the same time period, read Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January series for fully fleshed out and historically rich stories of slave era black Americans both male and female
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By L. Coleman VINE VOICE on April 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have mixed emotions about this book. Overall it was a decent read, but I was expecting a little more. I thought the characters could have been developed a little more. Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu didn't have much depth to them. The only character that I felt like I really got to know was Lizzie because she narrated most of the story and the reader was provided with more details about her life unlike the other ladies. From reading the jacket of the book, I thought there was going to be some laugh out loud moments but I didn't experience any of those. I was a little disappointed by the ending. I was left completely unsatisfied. I guess I wanted a little more closure especially with Mawu's character. The whole spirit sister thing between Lizzie and Mawu that the author threw in at the end left a little to be desired especially since it totally didn't make sense to me. I guess it was little weird to me and felt as though it was a total distraction since we never found out exactly what happened to Mawu after she was found. There were several loose ends. Why did Reenie's Master/brother give her over to the hotel manager? Was there some type of deal made? I would have liked to know. There were several others that a few of the other reviewers have already mentioned.

On the front cover of the book there's a quote by USA Today that states, "Readers entranced by The Help will be equally riveted by Wench. A deeply moving, beautifully written novel told from the heart." I'm sorry but I didn't find that to be the case. I've read The Help and enjoyed that book tremendously. Don't get me wrong, Wench was written beautifully but personally for me it's not on the same caliber as The Help. The Help had more depth to the story and the characters were flushed out a little more.
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