Set in the mid 19th Century, Wench offers a fictionalized account of a very real and strange practice. Southern slaveowners would vacation in a particular Ohio resort and take slave women along as their vacation partners, leaving their wives at home. The story centers on several slave women, their different backgrounds, experiences with slavery and relationships with the masters. All are used sexually, but one, Lizzie, holds actual feelings for her owner.
This is an engaging story, one that offers some insight into what it might have been like to be a slave. It raises questions about the experience. For example, is it at all possible for a person who is regarded as chattel to have real affection for her owner, however kind that man may be? Can a slave ever give herself freely to her owner or is any physical relationship rape by the nature of the relationship between the parties, in the same way that society today considers sex between an adult and a minor rape because a minor is assumed not to have the ability to offer responsible consent?
One might think that slaves brought to free Ohio would seize every opportunity to flee. But what if their children were still back on the plantations as insurance for their return?
I was engaged with the book pretty much for its entirety. I questioned a few decisions the author made for her characters, wondering if they really would have acted in such a manner. But overall, this is a solid read, offering payload in the form of a look at an odd aspect of the history of slavery in America.