The holiday break is over and a new season of MUSE Group is about to begin. The group will meet next Tuesday (January 17th) at Kent State University to discuss “Wench: a Novel.” We will also be reading two Pulitzer prizes winning books, The Known World (February 21) and Empire Falls (March 13). I hope you will consider joining us at 6:30 on these nights for some lively discussion
Being an Ohioan (or perhaps an almost Ohioan like me), you will find the history of Tawawa House, the setting for Wench, to be of special interest. It was an actual resort in Wilberforce Ohio, about halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati. The historical marker there reads: “From its beginnings, the resort did not fare well as it was popular among southern planters who, much to the consternation of nearby antislavery sentiment, brought slave entourages whenever they came.”
Each summer, the southern plantation owners, the “Masters,” would travel north to Tawawa to escape the oppressive southern heat. Amongst their “entourages” would be their slave mistresses. Author Perkins-Valdez plunges the reader into this dark period of American history through the lives of Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu. Each woman offers a different perspective: Lizzie is in love with Drayle, the father of her 2 children, Reenie is half-sister to her cruel master, Sweet is pregnant and vulnerable, and the fiery red-haired creature known as Mawu wants desperately to escape slavery. These women will haunt your thoughts long after you have turned the last page. The novel covers 3 eventful summers; it is touching, heart-wrenching, even humbling, but there are glimpses of hope as well as the women consider their options. Readers will find some passages difficult to read, such as when one of the women is publicly beaten and raped, least she forget who is in charge. The book is a quick, easy and rewarding read but one that packs a significant wallop.
Need more reading suggestions? I loved Cutting for Stone…even though it seemed overly long to me. And I am currently reading A Paris Wife, the story Hadley Hemingway. Next of my shelf is Stephen King’s new one, 11/22/63. If anyone has read it, I would love to hear your thoughts.