Book Reviews -- 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge
The last couple of weeks have been good reading weeks for me. The books I completed were completely different in nature but they were both quick reads and page turners for different reasons.
The second book I read was "Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. This is a work of fiction based on a real place -- the Tawawa Resort in Xenia, Ohio. The resort opened in 1852 and closed in 1855 due to declining business resulting from the displeasure of the northern white patrons with the southern white patrons and their slave entourages. The property changed hands and became the Ohio African University in 1856. Enrollment decreased during the Civil War and the university eventually closed. in 1863 the property was purchased by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and became Wilberforce University which continues to be the nation's oldest African University. It is believed that many of the first students were the children of the slave women and their white owners.
As I said previously, this is a work of fiction detailing the summer vacations of four slave mistresses and their white masters. The strength of this book, in my opinion, is the characterization. When this book first caught my eye I shied away from it because of the subject matter. I couldn't imagine a book about slavery being "entertaining" and I certainly wouldn't use that word to describe this book. As I began, I felt bad reading about these women in their deplorable situations -- some true slaves, some in love with their masters, some whose masters loved them -- but then I realized that these women wanted me to read about them, to "know" them, to see that these women were women like any other with the strength, knowledge and abilities to get them through -- just like all women of the ages. One of the most compelling themes is the need, desire and endurance of relationships between these women. I am not talking about romantic relationships but rather the relationships that uphold us all through birth, death, joy, sorrow and loss. Slaves were viewed as being pretty much inhuman and this book dispells that notion by showing how these women dealt with the "stuff" of life, how their strengths, frailties, and faith were no different than any woman -- then or now.
I was afraid that the graphic nature of this book would be more than I could handle. I do read for pleasure and I couldn't imagine reading about cruelties toward these women being pleasurable and it wasn't but there was only enough of these scenes to move the story along-- it wasn't overdone for shock value. It was a compelling book and these women drew me in. I found myself thinking about how I would react in each of their situations and which one I identified with most.
With all of this said, it was a page turner, it was enlightening and it did have a happy ending -- a couple of them actually.
I would recommend this to anybody interested in history. If you are looking for something light and airy -- pass this one by.