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.
This was a beautifully written novel that gave me such a vivid picture of the historical resort that this book depicts. Not only do we have an image of resort known as Tawawa House, but also of what the lives were like for the slaves that also were kept as mistresses to their owners.
Every summer for a few weeks, a group of white southerners head to Tawawa House for a break from the everyday life on their plantations. They take along with them their favorite slave mistresses while leaving their wives at home, which allows them the time to be free with these women who are basically outcasts of society at the time. Not all of the patrons of the resort agree with slavery, so these men choose to stay in some cabins that are behind the resort rather than in Tawawa House itself.
We learn a lot about these mistresses during their vacation as they don't have the regular demands that are required of them as they are back at the plantations. Even though they still must cater to their owners when they are around, the ladies are left alone quite often, which allows them quality time to bond and just be themselves.
Lizzie is the gal that we get to know the best throughout the novel and as the other slaves long for freedom it seems that Lizzie is content with her life for the most part. She seems to love her owner and what she longs for the most is freedom for her children. She has been lucky enough to give her owner two beautiful children, but she worries endlessly about them having to grow up as slaves like she did. As Lizzie confides with the other mistresses and they all share their hopes and dreams she starts to reconsider the direction that her life seems to be heading.
I really enjoyed this story with it's themes of morals, humanity, and love. Although I didn't read it with my book club I am definitely suggesting it to the ladies because I am sure that they would all enjoy it as much as I did. I'm confident that this would make a great book club selection and spark a lively discussion if you are looking for a book club pick. I have no reservations about recommending this book!
My Rating: 4/5
Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the publisher to participate in this blog tour and provide an honest review.