By: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Wench is a historical novel about slaves from several plantations who meet up each summer at Tawawa House. Tawawa House is a hotel with cottages in Ohio, which is considered a free state in the 1850s when the story takes place. Lizzie is the main character and the book is broken down to stages of her life. She is a slave owned by Drayle, a master who treats her well for the most part and whom she actually cares for. When his wife is unable to give him children, Lizzie's role becomes all the more important as she becomes the mother of his children, a boy and a girl. As a mother, she wants them to be given their freedom and takes every opportunity to soften Drayle up and ask him to free them. The summers spent at Tawawa House are special to Lizzie because they are able to live there mostly like husband and wife. It's there that she meets another slave, one who has named herself Mawu and whom will change things for Lizzie and make her yearn for possibities previously unthought of. Mawu is a strong woman who has always fought her master when he tries to sleep with her. She is determined to seek freedom if it's the last thing she does. Other slave women, Reenie and Sweet who are friends of Lizzie's go through unbearable things while at Tawawa House and all try to comfort each other as best they can.
That's about all I can say without giving some of the story away. Although, Wench was difficult sometimes to read due to the subject matter, it was a beautiful story. America's past has certainly not been pretty, but Mrs. Perkins-Valdez was able to tell a small piece of it with dignity and grace. I became a part of these women's lives, immersed in the day to day grind and heartbreaks they faced. This book will remind you to be thankful for the freedom that we all have and what people had to go through to get to this point in time.