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Publisher's Summary

An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresses.

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 is particularly nice in the summer when the Southern humidity is too much to bear. The main building, with its luxurious finishes, is loftier than the white cottages that flank it, but then again, the smaller structures are better positioned to catch any breeze that may come off the pond. And they provide more 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 reunite and share developments in their own lives and on their respective plantations. 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.

©2010 Dolen Perkins-Valdez (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
  • Donna
  • Newport, NC, United States
  • 02-15-11

Fascinating and disturbing, an amazing debut...

I really enjoyed the audio Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez from Audible.com. Quincy Tyler Bernstine did such an amazing job narrating this and capturing and expressing the varying emotions of the characters. Quincy was really able to effectively present each character in a way that was relatable and gave me, as a reader, a real feel for that time period.
I thought Wench was an amazing debut novel. It tells the story of Tawana House, an American resort located in Ohio just before the Civil War. Tawana House was frequented by quite a few southern plantation owners who brought their slave mistresses with them which caused quite a bit of gossip for the northerners. Wench mainly focuses on the story of 4 particular women who are brought to Tawana House by their owners. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet, who have visited several times, are introduced to Mawu, whose unpredictable behavior and blunt honesty help the others to face some truths and begin to feel things they have never allowed themselves to feel. Most of all, hope.
One of the things that fascinated me the most was that Tawawa House actually existed. I guess that shouldn’t be so surprising, but I can see how learning about this place could inspire someone as talented as this author to tell its story. And I felt that Dolen Perkins-Valdez told it brilliantly. Even presenting such a painful subject as slavery and all the horrors that accompany it, while at times it was uncomfortable to read about, the characters were so engaging that I wanted to know their stories, however painful they may be. I was intrigued by the concept that, although these women were forced into a carnal relationship with their “owners” and even to have their children, some of the women considered themselves to be in love. The dynamic between all involved was as fascinating as it was disturbing. I was definitely presented with perspectives I had never before considered.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • katrina
  • CLARKSVILLE, TN, United States
  • 02-03-11

Wench

The booked started off great. It maintained my interest until the very end. However, the book ended as if it were moving on to the next chapter. The final chapter dropped off like the author ran out of time. The terrible end ruined the book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

An explosive ride!

I am an avid reader and audile listener, I found this book reviting, moving, and explosive! I would highly recommend this book to any reader interested in learning about the history of this country and seeking a realistic look into slavery. I was left speechless!

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Elisabeth
  • Durham, NC, United States
  • 04-11-11

Average writing about an intriguing subject

This is a genre that I particularly enjoy, so I had high hopes for Wench. I thought it was solid literary fiction, but nothing exceptional, albeit an intriguing topic. The character development was flat as I had difficulty sorting out the slave women and masters until the focus shifted to one particular slave/master relationship. The book ended very abruptly. As a matter of fact, it seemed like Perkins-Valdez couldn't figure out how to end it and thus took a wimpy way out. If you would like to read a book of this ilk, I would highly recommend The Kitchen House. Wench is not bad, it's just not that good.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jo
  • 10-03-15

READ IT!!

Do not hesitate to get this book! Excellent book and excellent narration!
I will read it again!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

A Great Story Read by an Exceptional Narrator

Where does Wench rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I have enjoyed all my books. This one is up there with the best of them.

What did you like best about this story?

The characters. All were well developed and the narrator managed to give each their unique personalities.

What does Quincy Tyler Bernstine bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She brought the story alive.

Any additional comments?

I totally enjoyed this book. It was emotional, sometimes humorous and highly entertaining. Totally recommend!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting

What did you love best about Wench?

The Reader was Excellent! Story was ok and I did enjoy the book It is just that I've read this kind of thing before. The other thing I would mention is the book is not a feel good kind of read I always felt a little sad while reading and even a short while after turning it off. So If you need a pick me up put this on off for a while, but still read because we should know how bad it is in bondage I feel it is worth the read and everyone should know the truth.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting story but the ending was a let down

I love period fiction so this story had my attention right off. While stories about slavery can be difficult to hear the history involved intrigued me. The characters were very entertaining & the narrator did an excellent job. However the ending seemed like the author just ran out of steam & decided to end the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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AWESOME!!

An awesome story about the intricate, complicated relationships during American slavery. The author captures the reader forcing us to be an onlooker into these lives. I felt transported back in time.
The actress delivery of the story was beautiful. I enjoyed how she changed her voice ever so slightly but naturally as though becoming each character.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting Read

"I could have freed 1000 more if they knew they were slaves" ~ Harriet Tubman