An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four
women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved
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,
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.
page-turning, and wholly original novel, Wench explores, with
an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.
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