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Shop  >>  Books  >>  Fiction (General)

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Wench

Dolen Perkins Valdez Wench
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Main description:

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, page-turning, and wholly original novel, Wench explores, with an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.

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“[A] fascinating and tragic story. . . . [A] compulsive read.”

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“[A] memorable and engaging debut.”

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“[A] memorable first novel . . . Readers of historical fiction centering on Southern women’s stories like Lalita Tademy’s Cane River or Lee Smith’s On Agate Hill will be moved by the skillful portrayal of Lizzie’s precarious situation and the tragic stories of her fellow slaves.”

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“[E]lectrifying. . . . [T]his remarkable novel skillfully dramatizes a dark chapter in American history. Writing with lyrical grace and a gift for plot development, Perkins-Valdez has produced an inspiring portrait of four brave women and the risks they take to change their lives.”

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“A fabulously creative and daring historical novel .”

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“A finely wrought story that explores the emotional lives of four slave women caught in the web of the Peculiar Institution.”

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“A heartbreaker, full of understated tragedy and lyrical prose. . . . Perkins-Valdez has woven a devastatingly beautiful account of a cruel past.”

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“A mesmerizing read.”

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“A powerful story.”

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“A shattering story told with dignity, compassion, and some wicked humor. A brave, honest, beautifully written book that will shock and move readers to much new awareness.”

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“A striking debut intimately limns a Southern slave’s complicated relationship with her master. . . . Compelling and unsentimental.”

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“Absolutely phenomenal. . . . Wench is an excellent novel that will appeal to many readers. Debut author Dolen Perkins-Valdez has crafted a historical narrative tha

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is startling and original fiction that raises provocative questions of power and freedom, love and dependence. An enchanting and unforgettable novel based on little-known fact, Wench combines the narrative allure of Cane River by Lalita Tademy and the moral complexities of Edward P. Jones’s The Known World as it tells the story of four black enslaved women in the years preceding the Civil War. A stunning debut novel, Wench marks author Perkins-Valdez—previously a finalist for the 2009 Robert Olen Butler Short Fiction Prize—as a writer destined for greatness.

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