Book review by Dinh.
If you’re looking for a compelling historical fiction novel to read, look no further! Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson hits the mark.
This surprising gem was a fantastic read.
Here’s what I loved about Yellow Wife and why you should consider it for your next read!
According to the author’s note at the end of the book, this work of fiction was inspired by the real life Mary Lumpkin and Lumpkin’s jail in Richmond, Virginia. Mary was a mixed race woman and had 5 children by slave trader Robert Lumpkin, also known as Bully Trader.
Told in first person’s point of view, Yellow Wife follows the life of Pheby Dolores Brown, born on a plantation during slavery time. It is 1850, and Pheby is seventeen living on Bell plantation, Virginia.
Life is relatively good for Pheby as she is protected by the Master’s sister and her mother. Pheby’s life quickly changes when her protectors die and she is sold off to a slave trader.
Firstly, I love the way Ms. Johnson writes. Yellow wife is a page turner! For a book of only 272 pages (hardcover) it packs a lot in.
I was so engrossed in the book that it was finished in 2 days!
Concise descriptions at appropriate places, along with just enough dialogue, and short chapters makes reading the book zip along.
Secondly, the book felt authentic and realistic. I could imagine the smell, misery, hardship and pain the characters were going through.
Moreover, Ms. Johnson did her research well. I did question when Oliver Twist was published though, (1838) because Pheby was reading it. I did a quick Google. I was nicely surprised that Ms. Johnson made it historically correct.
Pheby’s courage is what stands out to me and is what I love about her character. She will make a sacrifice so that her son and the son’s father can get away to have freedom.
Pheby does start off being naive at the beginning of the book but once she is sold off and her circumstances changes she grows up and becomes more practical. Her survival instincts take over and I love that she is strong and has the courage to do what it takes to survive.
I loved the ending but felt that it was rushed.
What I really wanted was more details of what happened after Pheby helped with the escape and the consequences she must have faced, but we only got some inkling of what happened in the epilogue.
Thank goodness for the epilogue! It was nice to get glimpses of what happened to Pheby’s kids and their lives post Lapier Jail.
My Final Thoughts
Read Yellow Wife! Totally compelling and a page turner, you’ll be done in a few days!
Belong to a book club? Check out Yellow Wife book club discussions questions!