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Extended Audio Sample Wench: A Novel, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,062 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez Narrator: Quincy Tyler Bernstine Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Readers entranced by The Help will be equally riveted by Wench. A deeply moving, beautifully written novel told from the heart.”

    USA Today

  • “A heartbreaker, full of understated tragedy and lyrical prose…Perkins-Valdez has woven a devastatingly beautiful account of a cruel past.”


  • “Absolutely phenomenal…Wench is an excellent novel that will appeal to many readers. Debut author Dolen Perkins-Valdez has crafted a historical narrative that shouldn’t be missed.”

    Sacramento Book Review

  • “Eloquently plunges into a dark period of American history…Heart-wrenching, intriguing, original, and suspenseful, this novel showcases Perkins-Valdez’ ability to bring the unfortunate past to life.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A striking debut…Perkins-Valdez builds a convincing, nuanced portrait…Compelling and unsentimental.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Perkins-Valdez’ power to imagine herself into the hearts and minds of slave mistresses and their masters is astonishing. A shattering story told with dignity, compassion, and some wicked humor. A brave, honest, beautifully written book that will shock and move readers to much new awareness.”

    Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind and A Feather on the Breath of God

  • “Through unforgettable characters and luscious prose, Wench stares down the difficult truths while never losing its beautiful beating heart. With all the weight of a historical excavation and the urgency of a page-turner, Perkins-Valdez establishes herself as a powerful new voice in fiction.”

    Tayari Jones, author of Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling

  • “This elegantly structured novel sheds much-needed light on the racial intricacies of America’s past.”

    Margaret Cezair-Thompson, author of The Pirate’s Daughter

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Sharon Sorken | 2/20/2014

    " This was a good story and written well. The ending just fizzled out! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Sylvie Fox | 2/8/2014

    " This book had such a good premise. I went into it with a lot of promise and hope - only to be vastly disappointed. The characters are far too shallow, the plots and characters left unexplored, and an ending far too mystical for the tone of the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Estelle Momrow | 2/5/2014

    " It made me sad about that historical time but it was well worth the read "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Bill | 2/4/2014

    " Good look at the life of Eliza, a "pampered" female slave in Antebellum Tennessee. She and several other slaves are exposed to "free" Ohio with a variety of consequences. "

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About the Author
Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays have appeared in Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories 2009, The Kenyon Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, and the Richard Wright Newsletter. She is a former University of California postdoctoral fellow and graduate of Harvard. Perkins-Valdez lives in Washington DC with her family.