by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Overview -

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.  Read more...

In Stock.

FREE Shipping for Club Members
> Check In-Store Availability

In-Store pricing may vary

New & Used Marketplace 119 copies from $2.99

This item is available only to U.S. billing addresses.

More About Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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.

  • ISBN-13: 9780061706561
  • ISBN-10: 0061706566
  • Publisher: Amistad Press
  • Publish Date: January 2011
  • Page Count: 290
  • Dimensions: 8.05 x 5.21 x 0.79 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.59 pounds

Series: P.S.

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Historical - General

BookPage Reviews

Best bets for book clubs

This month’s best paperback releases for reading groups



In her electrifying debut novel, Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez tells the unforgettable story of four slave women who serve as mistresses to their masters. In Ohio during the 1850s, Mawu, Lizzie, Sweet and Reenie meet while vacationing with their owners at a resort, where they see a true wonder—free blacks—and hear gossip about abolition. With the exception of Lizzie, who loves her master, the women soon dream of being free. The odds against them are incredible. Reenie is owned by her brutal half-brother, who shares her with the manager of the resort. Courageous Mawu also suffers at the hand of a pitiless master. Sweet, meanwhile, is expecting a baby with her owner. As the women develop plans to escape, they’re aided by freed slaves and a kind Quaker woman. Yet leaving is more difficult than they ever imagined. Based on factual research, this 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.



A Mountain of Crumbs, the smart, funny memoir from Russian writer Elena Gorokhova, offers a revealing look at life in 1960s Leningrad during Brezhnev’s oppressive tenure. As a teenager, Gorokhova finds it hard to obey the strict political codes that shape every aspect of her life, but her compliant, worrisome mother plays by the rules and encourages her to do the same. Despite the state’s intrusiveness, she experiences the usual teenage agitations, including concerns about dating, work and the future, which she recounts with appealing humor. Planning early on to escape from her homeland, Gorokhova is forced to come to terms with the Soviet Union’s dark past as she envisions a future for herself in the West. Marriage to an American provides a ticket out, and she eventually settles in New Jersey. Recounting events in a style that’s frank and intimate, Gorokhova’s story of maintaining her personal identity in the face of an invasive government makes for fascinating reading.



Inspired by the work of Jane Austen, The Three Weissmanns of Westport focuses on three women in different phases of life who are struggling with changes in career and love. Betty Weissmann’s world is turned upside down when, after almost 50 years of marriage, her husband takes up with another woman. At the age of 75, she leaves behind her well-to-do Manhattan existence and moves into an old beach house in Westport, Connecticut. Betty is soon joined by her daughters: Miranda, a literary agent embroiled in legal troubles, and Annie, a debt-ridden librarian. In Westport, a place filled with fresh faces and opportunities, the trio’s prospects brighten. Miranda falls for a young actor, while Annie connects unexpectedly with the brother of a family friend. A tale of old-fashioned romance set against a contemporary backdrop, Cathleen Schine’s latest is a true page-turner. Richly plotted and filled with emotion and heart, it’s a delightful tribute to Austen.  

A reading group guide is available.

BAM Customer Reviews