I broke my book reading ban (I’ve read a total of 3 books already this month) and bought this story. I couldn’t help myself!
A harrowing tale of a brave young woman’s survival as a slave.
So this was the type of story I was looking for – a window into what black people had to go through in the Southern U.S. before slavery was abolished. I don’t think I was quite prepared for reading the real horrors and cruelty inflected on slaves – I was so upset that I was shaking in parts or light-headed in others. It’s an absolute disgrace and tragedy that slavery is a part of Southern American history, yet the people who were enslaved were the most resilient and courageous ones.
Yellow Wife is based on a true story of a jail master’s black wife. Pheby was fortunate enough to have been educated as a young girl – she can read, write, play the piano, and she understands social etiquette. Sadly, when she’s brought to a plantation at age 17, she sees the true horrors of what it is to be a field slave. Due to her upbringing and lighter skin, her master wants her to be a house servant. Though spared from grueling work in the fields, she is treated harshly by the Mistress. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was jarring to realize how much sexual abuse was inflicted on the slaves – by masters as well as mistresses. Both male and female slaves were forced to give in to their owners’ desires – and this turns into a very sad situation later on in the story. What I loved about the characters is that they knew they had equal value as humans and they didn’t allow themselves to be gaslighted into thinking they were meant to be slaves for white folk.
Many had dreams of escaping to the North where slavery wasn’t legal – but several were hunted down and caught to be punished horrifically for deserting. After standing up to her mistress (a very powerful part!), Pheby is forced to go to Devils Half Acre, a filthy prison designated for slaves. Most of the women were eventually sold off as fancy girls while the men were kept in the tortuous building. Upon seeing Pheby’s beauty, the jail master saves her from being stripped down and sold. Despite being allowed to live in a nice house and wear nice dresses as the man’s companion, Pheby knows she’s still in hell – and she’ll stop at nothing to help free the one she loves from the jail.
This was a page turner that I could not put down. I read it in less than 24 hours and this is a full scale novel!
My Rating: 5/5 stars
You can check out the description and where to buy Yellow Wife here.