Thursday, February 2, 2023

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez


I've have had Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez in my 'to be read' pile since December 2017. I am happy that I was finally able to listen to the unabridged audio version of this historical fiction novel! 

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez was also my 8th and final read during the month of January 2023. Wench is set in the USA in the 1800s prior to the Civil War. The focus of this novel is on the lives of four female slaves and their relationship as mistresses to their white masters. Wench also focuses on the intricate relationship each of the female slaves has with each other during the time they spend in Ohio on vacation with their white masters... And I wouldn't really call it a 'vacation' as these women still had to work, but not as hard as they normally would on the southern plantations where they lived.

Each of the four female slaves have certain privileges afforded to them as mistresses to their white masters, but it's a tenuous one. The women are still treated as property and treated less than equal to whites. Lizzie, for instance, lives in the Big House, is taught to read, and the children she has with her white master are given privileges other slave children are not. Lizzie is also able to acquire special favors for other slaves from the master due to her relationship with him as his mistress... Yet, Lizzie's master won't grant a provision in his will that would allow his children with Lizzie to be set free should he pass away. Also, Lizzie is not completely free to do what she wants and the threat of punishment if she steps out of line is real... Lizzie is also treated in many ways that are unthinkable despite the special privileges she is given by the her master. 

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez offers a lot to ponder. It's a well paced read with a good storyline. I also enjoyed Quincy Tyler Bernstine's narration of Wench.

Below is the plot summary for Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez from Goodreads:

wench \'wench\ n. from Middle English "wenchel," 1 a: a girl, maid, young woman; a female child. 
Tawawa House in many respects is like any other American resort before the Civil War. Situated in Ohio, this idyllic retreat's lofty white cottages provide the desired privacy which best suits the needs of the Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their black, enslaved mistresses. It's their open secret. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars at Tawawa House. They have become friends over the years as they share developments in their own lives. They don't bother too much with questions of freedom, though the resort is situated in free territory-but when truth-telling Mawu comes to the resort and starts talking of running away, things change.

To run is to leave behind everything these women value most-friends and families still down South-and for some it also means escaping from the emotional and psychological bonds that bind them to their masters. When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, the women of Tawawa House soon learn that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the most inhuman, brutal of circumstances-all while they are bearing witness to the end of an era.

An engaging, and wholly original novel, WENCH explores, with an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.

I am giving Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next, post happy reading!!


  1. What a difficult situation for a woman of color in those times and circumstances. It would seem to offer plenty of material for dramatic exposition and it sounds as though this author did well with that.

    1. A tough read due to the subject matter... But a good read nonetheless.