The Wedding Gift

theweddinggift

Can I start by saying this title is misleading? Not misleading in that it isn’t true, but in the way that upon reading it you immediately think of this book as “chick lit.” Not, that there is anything wrong with “chick lit.” This book is just so much more. More than its title, more than the description on the back cover, more even than the story itself. Because this is a book based on deceit, bondage, slavery, hatred, love…and on and on. It is also a book based on a true story.

The author, Marlen Suyapa Bodden, started her career as a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, and from her experiences there and through her life and academic career to write her first novel, The Wedding Gift.  After you turn the first page, you leave this world of public defenders, OSHA, and workman’s comp. Bodden writes as if she has been doing so all her life. The research she put into her story and of the time period was obviously high on her list of priorities.

Told from the point of view from Sarah, a slave, and Theodora Allen- her masters wife, this story is the tale of illegitimate children of slave owners- the unloved, uncared for children who never asked to be born, but in doing so, take on the status of their mother. For that is the law within slavery.

Sarah is six years old when she realizes that she is a slave, but even at six, she has her wits about her. Intelligent, cunning and creative, Sarah is determined to make the most of her life and she’s going to die trying to escape the bonds of slavery.

Theodora, the mother of the Allen household, is a kind soul whose heart is broken and rather than letting that destroy her life, like so many other women, she has decided to rise above. She decides that being the wife of a slave owner gives her some authority, though not over her husband and his decisions.

Bodden’s choice of telling the story from Sarah and her mistress’ mother was a thought out plan that unfolds beautifully. Telling parts of the story from two perspectives show the parallel lives these people live, and how one man can rule his world and negatively affect one aspect but not the other. Sarah and Theodora are two heroines trying to escape injustice in their lives, and fighting like hell to flee from the bondage that binds them to the Allen estate.

 

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