Thursday, October 17, 2013
My take on: The Wedding Gift
Theodora Allen, the wife of Cornelius, is also a bit of a dreamer. She dreams of days spent playing with her future grandchildren. She wants a closer relationship with her sons. She wants a respectable husband for her daughter, Clarissa. Most of all, she dreams of the day when her opinions will matter. A day when her husband, the master of a large plantation, will listen to her speak rather than beating her into submission.
Author Marlen Suyapa Bodden transports readers back to 1850s Alabama in The Wedding Gift. It was a time when slavery was a way of life in the South, but it was also a time of shame in the North. Free men and women and white Southerners who spoke against slavery did so at their own risk. In their own way, Sarah and Theodora were risk takers; Sarah for believing that slavery won't rule her life forever and Theodora for finding her voice amongst strong-willed men.
Despite her circumstances, Sarah was a very inquisitive child. She asked questions when others wouldn't. She wants to know why her mother, Emmeline, goes to Master Allen's room at night? Sarah wants to know why their family, including her sister Belle, can't be free? Why can't she learn to read like Clarissa? Why do the other slaves make fun of Sarah's fair skin? And why does Sarah look so much like Clarissa? Reading a book like this in 2013, it's hard to imagine that this was a way life. I can't imagine someone trying to limit not just my ability to learn but my freedom.
If not for the kindness of Theodora, Sarah would never have blossomed into an intelligent young woman. Theodora allowed Sarah to sit in during Clarissa's lessons. It was at great personal risk to herself, but Theodora could see it made Sarah and Clarissa happy. So what if Sarah became smarter? Theodora was just too kind-hearted to say no. The ability to read and write were very powerful weapons during slavery. It's a weapon that Sarah uses to her advantage. Even when Clarissa gets married and Sarah is forced to go with her to a new plantation, Sarah knows her intelligence will pay off. Clarissa's marriage was one of convenience and shame, not a marriage out of love or passion. Sarah doesn't pass judgment on Clarissa, instead she's methodically plotting her physical and mental escape from the Allen family.
By the time I reached the last chapter, I wasn't that enamored with this book. In some parts, I felt the pacing was slow. But when I got to the last two pages, I had to completely change my mind. There is a HUGE plot twist within the last two pages. I'm not going to give it away, but the last two pages totally changed my mind about the book. The writer asks readers not to judge the characters through the eyes of today, but through the past. If you were in the position of these characters, certainly you would have acted just like them. You would do anything to survive. You would do anything to make sure those who betrayed you paid for their actions. By the end, I saw Sarah's character in a different light. She's no longer this sweet and determined person. She morphed into a young woman with a severe mean streak. I didn't know if I should be sympathetic toward her character, or to hate her.
I definitely recommend reading it!! When you do, tell me what you think of the ending!!
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received a copy of the book at BookExpo America