Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu are four slave women who meet when their owners vacation at the same resort in Ohio.  Each of these women have a story and each of these women are mistresses to their master… in some cases willingly.  While at this resort they see the first time free blacks and Mawu leads the group as she talks about escape and freedom.

Reenie and Sweet are on board with the dreams of running to their freedom but Lizzie feels she really loves her master Drayle, and she believes he loves her as well… after all they do have two children together.

In the end, as they spend their third and final summer together in Ohio, the women have a decision to make….

but will it be one of freedom?

This was a fascinating read.  Initially when my book club chose this for our March read I was nervous that it may be like The Help.  I loved The Help, but do not like it when books (or movies for that fact) build off what another pulls off successfully.

I did not have to worry – Wench is a book all in its own.  I was able to learn much through the sto ri es of t he women, and enjoyed each of their takes on their lives and their worth – from mild-mannered Lizzie who felt she was the rightful wife of her master if not legally by heart then, to wild Mawu whose master is cruel and violent and Mawu feels she would rather die trying to escape than continue living in this manner.

I really felt uneducated going into this read as I knew that in some cases the masters of these black women would force them into sex … but I guess I did not realize it was so common.  The complexity of the women’s relationships with their masters as well as in their friendships with each other made for a fascinating read.  In the end I came to appreciate a lot more what these women went through in a time that no one stood up for them….  this book is a read of heartbreak and in a way – triumph as well.

Fabulous fabulous fabulous read.

Amazon Rating

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading map has been updated to include Wench





I received this book for review


Bookies review:

Our book club had a wonderful discussion about this book.  We discussed in great detail the different lives each of the four main women had with their masters and with their friendship as well.  The discussion was quite detailed and I enjoyed how deep we dived into the subject of slavery and especially into the relationship of Drayle and Lizzie.

I love it when our group does the little extras and Angie (By Book Or By Crook) had taken the time to find and print out for us the use of the popular songs of slaves.  Follow The Drinking Gourd – the video above, is one of those songs.  It was interesting to hear the words, that were not written down as the songs contained codes of where they would meet when they escaped – and were used by Harriet Tubman when she helped slaves escape


The resort, Tawawa House, mentioned in the book, does exist and on Dolen Perkins-Valdez’ website you can read about the history of this resort.  As the masters who took their slaves to the resorts and left their wives at home, this was truly a case of what happens in Tawawa House – stays in Tawawa House.

And of course, when the Bookies meet – we do like to go all foodie on the theme and the girls out did themselves with the delightful treats we had for this review.   Grits, corn bread, stuffed potatoes, a stew, rice and beans with Louisiana hot sauce, sour dough bread, strawberry shortcake, chocolate cake, cinnamon applesauce, a Feta and Craisin spinach salad with poppy seed dressing…. Oh man….

35 thoughts on “Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

    1. When our group is in full attendance it is 14 people Shirley… as we got bigger I had to become more creative on bringing everyone’s involvement to the book. I really want each meeting to be memorable 😀

  1. I have heard so many good things about this book…I really want to read it…

    Now to the food…OMG!!! I am sure you are zoomba ing right now!!!

    1. No Zumba today Patty – if you read my morning post and seen the shoes? Well – I fell down 4 steps today in those babies…. Ow to my knee and decided Zumba was going to have to be a pass today 😀

  2. I was nervous to read Wench for the same reason, and was happily surprised to learn that it was topic all of its own. I was also surprised that sometimes these “relationships” were so complex! I have read about the Placees of New Orleans, which is somewhat comparable but I never thought slave owners would take their slaves to a resort setting.

    Very interesting to learn that the Tawawa Resort was real!!

  3. I just read this book a couple of weeks ago, and you’re right it definitely hit upon a segment in history that’s not often talked about – slave owners vacationing up North with their slave mistresses.

    The ending wasn’t exactly happy, but I guess it was a realistic portrayal.

    1. Right Nicole – I think I would have been disappointed if it was a happy ending – this way, it felt more real…It has given me a lot to think about when it comes to the African American men and women of that age…. I just can not wrap my mind around that – how do you explain to your children that you are not free because of your color?

    1. I do love them Staci and it is interesting as until I started hearing from people – I thought all book clubs were like this… I found out that is not the case… in fact some – never get to reviewing the book and only use it as social catch up time.

      Somehow – we are doing it right – at least for us 😀

  4. Fabulous review Sheila, I’ve had it on my bookshelf for a while but keep putting it off as I’ve read a number of reviews saying it’s a difficult read but definitely worth it. I liked your comment “this book is a read of heartbreak and in a way – triumph” … now I just have to dust it off 🙂

    PS all the food pics are making me hungry!

  5. I have been curious about this book since I first saw it. I plan to read it but am currently reading The Help and think I’m going to need a bit of space between the two.

    Its hard to decide what sounds better, the book or your book club’s food!

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