Wench is set in the early 1850s and follows four women: Lizzie, Mawu, Sweet, and Reenie.  Though they come from different places, every summer they find themselves together at Tawawa House, a resort that caters to rich white men and, often, their female slaves.  The women alternately endure and enjoy these summers; though they are allowed more liberties while away from their plantations, they must still suffer the commands and assaults of the men they serve.  Perkins-Valdez succeeds in creating four vibrant, memorable female characters as they struggle with conflicting loyalties to one another, to their children back home, and to their own dreams for the future.

"Lizzie waved at Reenie.  The woman closed her eyes and turned up to the sun.  Lizzie caught a glimpse of Reenie's younger self [...] Right then, Lizzie thought she knew what Reenie was feeling.  The water felt like relief.  Being in it made it easy to forget the words, licks, disappointments that had sliced at every little part of them over the years."

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of novels Wench and Balm, and wrote the introduction to a recent edition of Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave.  She lives in Washington, D.C.

Published:  2009
Length:  290 pages
Set in:  Ohio, United States