Friday, March 26, 2010

WENCH - Dolen Perkins-Valdez


My father-in-law has a saying; when asked how he is doing, he replies, "I'm white, I'm male, I was born in the United States at the ideal time, and I am educated."

The women of Wench would answer a bit differently. As the mistresses of southern slave owners, they are brought to an Ohio resort during the mid 1850s that caters to men who can "love" them more openly. Under the ruse of a personal slave who washes, cooks, cleans, sweeps, and cares for the man, each woman has a different personal relationship with her master. While some, like Sweet, have borne several children and feel love for her man, others, like Mawu, despises her master and begins the talk that changes their lives.

Ohio was free territory, but until Mawu began talking of being a "free black," like the hotel's servants, none of the others considered other options for their lives or their children's lives. Their choices would eventually reunite them or divide them forever from their families.

The most powerful part of the novel was the characterization in its short 300 pages. Four women with different beliefs and relationships psychologically stand together with the strength of Stonehenge. A shift of the hip or a glance tells much more than an entire page.

Like The Help, this is a peek at a world I would never know or understand. How are you doing today, Kristin? I am white, I'm a strong woman, I was born in the United States at the ideal time, and I am educated. I am a lucky, lucky woman.

4.25 out of 5.0 Code Limons.

8 comments:

moonrat said...

so i just read your review, and your comment on mine. thanks for remembering!

re: mawu: good point. stories are, indeed, lost.

not that a main character need be likable--but did you find lizzie likable? (i'm not using the word "sympathetic" here intentionally.)

Claire Dawn said...

Wow, I really need to compile a To be Read list, because this needs to be on it!

Jane Steen said...

I have added this to my To Read list. Thanks for the review Kristin!

Claire, I put my To Read list on LibraryThing because it was getting out of hand. This has allowed it to get seriously out of hand: it currently stands at 153. As I wrote on my blog yesterday, I also have a very substantial Guilt Pile of books I've acquired but not read.

moonrat said...

Claire, Jane--not to be even FURTHER of an evangelist, but if you want to join up with the Fill-in-the-Gaps project, it's a great incentive-driven way to force yourself through all those acquired books :) About 20 (so 1/5) of the books on my list were books I'd bought and not read. But everyone's list varies depending on their personal situation.

Here's the info:

http://tinyurl.com/ccbd4q

And here's the project website if you want to join up:

http://fillinthegaps100.blogspot.com/

Of course, LibraryThing may be enough already :) I just LOVE list maintenance.

Glam Girl said...

Lovelly book! Thanks for your comment

Kristin Dodge said...

About lost stories... I was so DAMN proud today because I tell stories of my great-grandparents and grandparents to my sons as a way to keep these wonderful people alive and real. Today, I started a story, and my son said, "Oh, yeah, this was the grandma who fell out of an apple tree when she was 60." Yes... please remember and please keep passing those stories on to your children someday. Even though she never met you, I know she'd love every freckle, crooked tooth, streaked hair, joke, and glance.

*Major spoilers*

What an interesting question, moonie... I did not actively dislike her because Lizzie didn't purposely do *anything* to generate a response. She ignored everything going on around her except when her help was needed, like when Sweet was in labor or the man from her plantation (blanking on the name) was chained without water or food (though she mostly observed others helping).

I empathized with her because of her kids, of course. She had such limited options. And she didn't seem to realize that she was completely screwed if her master died before the wife.

But likeable? I would not want her as a friend.

What about you? And what do you think of all of the hype comparing it to "The Help"?

moonrat said...

I agree, I found Lizzie empathetic but not likable. Good comment re: wanting her as a friend--that's very nicely put.

I haven't read The Help--perhaps I should?

Rana said...

This sounds like a great read. I'm putting it on my list. I'm black, I'm female and I'm so glad I was born in this era, and live in the United States because if I had been living during this time period I probably would not have lived long because of my attitude.