Dolen Perkins-Valdez delivers the gripping tale of primary characters, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu's, lives as slave maids and mistresses during the mid-19th century. Although from separate southern plantations, the mistresses vacation with their white masters to a free-state resort in Ohio each summer, forming a sisterly bond and developing relationships with each other.
Suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their "owners," the women grow weary, often dreaming of their and their children's freedom. While each of the women has a unique relationship with her respective master, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu share the bond of slavery and mistreatment. Despite the seeming perks each wench receives over all the other slaves at their home plantations, each woman still finds herself living in misery. This story brings readers into the heart-wrenching decisions, painstaking moments and emotional turmoil endured by each of the women as they struggle to save themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally. They walk a fine line of favor with their masters. Should the women stay, or should they run, when the opportunity is staring them right in the face?
This story is unlike any other story I've read about slave women and children. Yes, I've heard the stories and knew these type things happened but never have I been drawn into the minds of the women that have lived this life. Themes of particular interest to me while reading this story were the relationship between the master's wife, Fran, and Lizzy. Lizzy's character is also of the most interest to me in that she was quite indecisive. I understood her indecision. I felt these women's pain and suffering. I also acknowledge the author's underlying message of the possible cause and evolvement of black-on-black prejudices.
After reading this story, I am even more deeply appreciative of the women before me. They suffered tremendously and if it weren't for them I would not be living the life I am today. Any time you read a story and you feel the emotions jumping from the pages, you've got a page turner. The history behind the Tawawa House and what the land is actually used for today is also quite interesting. I would have never known had I not read this book.
Based on this novel, I would read a second offering from Ms. Perkins-Valdez.