WENCH by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Hold the presses. Note the date – May 16, 2010. I *may* have finally reached my fill of contemporary domestic fiction. I love the book I am reading right now (Love in Mid-Air), but I think that when I finish it, I may actually take a break from my usual spate of marriages/families/friendships in the 00s.

I am sure it will be temporary.

But maybe this book will fit the bill: Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. It is about the black mistresses of white slaveowners in the 1850s who accompany their masters to a resort in Ohio. From Amazon:

Frustrations mount as they consider their options, tempted to take
advantage of the help offered by free blacks and a Quaker woman. But
they are guilt-ridden about the prospect of leaving their children
behind. The women rely on each other for support as they come together
for three summers, catching up on their lives of woe and occasional joy.
Drawing on research about the resort that eventually became the first
black college, Wilberforce University, the novel explores the
complexities of relationships in slavery and the abiding comfort of
women’s friendships. 

Wench Kristin from Books for Breakfast says: "The most powerful part of the novel was the characterization in its
short 300 pages. Four women with different beliefs and relationships
psychologically stand together with the strength of Stonehenge. A shift
of the hip or a glance tells much more than an entire page."

Swapna from S. Krishna's Books agrees: "Perkins-Valdez does an excellent job getting the reader in the minds of
each of these women.  The words leap from the page, as though spoken;
the reader becomes friends with these women, comes to care for them. 
It’s a tremendous feat, considering the book is not very long. 
Perkins-Valdez writes each of these women with such care, it’s an
absolutely wonderful experience."

I missed Perkins-Valdez when she was in town at Politics & Prose a while back, but this book has been on my radar for a while and I look forward to reading it!