HarperCollins, 2010 (2010)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth
n the United States, from around 1812 to 1832, a black or colored female servant was considered a
. A wench was a slave - owned in most cases by a white man to be used as he saw fit - to labor in the fields, or as a breeder to produce more slaves to work the owner's plantation. Many were taken as mistresses - right under the nose of the master's wife. If the wife were smart, she ignored the situation and got on with her life. But the wench would live to cater to her master, bear his children and then possibly watch those children sold to become slaves for another master. Families were routinely broken apart.
his story of Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet is told through Lizzie's voice. The three are slaves who journey with their masters to a resort in Ohio. This is to escape the South's summer humidity and so that the masters can throw off their mantle of respectability and live a degenerate lifestyle. With their wenches, of course. Lizzie tells it like it was: the complete disregard for human life; the joy of seeing old friends after a year's hiatus; the trials of living under such conditions - never knowing when a drunk master would take exception to something said and order his slave to be flogged; living a bare existence.
ut Lizzie can tell it far better than I. Author Dolen Perkinds Valdez places herself back in those times as she tells Lizzie's story. The words seem to come from Lizzie's own mouth, expressing her thoughts and fears. She tells of her terror that her children will be sold, and for her chance of escape. I cannot do justice to the delicate writing of Perkins-Valdez. She uses words in such a manner that you feel they are hers and hers alone. She feels Lizzie's despair and portrays the woman as though she were Lizzie herself.
his is the author's first novel, although she previously published both essays and short fiction. I look forward to reading more and more from this promising and sensitive writer. I am sure she will have a long and successful career.
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