The Tawawa House is a resort in Ohio. Like American resorts, it provides a nice retreat with comfortable living quarters, spacious grounds and private structures. Privacy is the main reason Southern white men frequent the resort every summer: to vacation with their black enslaved mistresses. The place is an open secret.
Lizzie, Reenie and Sweet are regulars at Tawawa House. They've become friends and look forward to reuniting every summer. The dynamic of their friendship changes when newcomer Mawu comes to the resort, reminding them of Tawawa House's location (on free territory) and questions freedom. Running away is more than a notion. More than just their lives are at stake. There is family and children still South to consider leaving behind. For one mistress in particular, running away means breaking the emotional bond with her master. One tragedy sets off a string of events and immediate decisions must be made.
"He not your man, you know." ~ pg. 15
Before I delve further into my review, let's take a look at the beautiful cover. It has caught my eye since it released about five years ago. I specifically remember seeing copies during the Borders closeout sale. I read this book in hardcover format and carried it around. The cover image and one-word title makes you take notice. Oh, the looks and questions I got!
(c. 1290): A girl, maid, young woman; a female child.
(1362): A wanton woman; a mistress.
(1812; 1832): A black or colored female servant; a negress.
(1848): A colored woman of any age; a negress or mulattress, especially one in service."
Wench is one of the better debut novels I have read. Sometimes authors take risks on their first novel and other times they play it safe. Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez did a great job of exploring the relationship between a slave owner and his mistress. I'm glad she tackled a subject not well-covered while showing how women in the same slavery situation react differently. Per the Author's Note, Wench is fiction but the Tawawa Resort did exist in Ohio. Wow. It took a creative mind to write a story following the lives of four women that visited this resort. Dolen Perkins-Valdez has impressed me with this debut novel and I look forward to reading her new release Balm (expected publication in May 2015).
Watch the video below of the author reading from Wench then accept my recommendation to read this novel.
Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Published: January 2010
Challenge: Diversity on the Shelf; New Authors; Popsugar One-Word Title