What I’m Reading: Yellow Wife

I saw a book recently that I if I’m honest, I looked at the cover and thought it might be a Civil War period book so I grabbed it up and put it on my hold list.  The book was Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson.

The Yellow Wife: A Novel
I started the book and quickly got right into it.  The book actually takes place pre-Civil War at the height of slavery.  I admit to normally being drawn to these types of books.  Books that portray people who are the underdogs triumphing over unheard of or difficult circumstances often give me hope that more people can also overcome their hard position in life.

This book, I quit.  It wasn’t because the book was bad.  It wasn’t because the book didn’t have my attention.  It wasn’t because the book was unbelievable.  It was that the book was too believable.  I could not read about Pheby, the main character, being raped another time.  I could not read about another pregnancy caused by that rape.  I could not read about another beating.  I could not bear witness, through words, even though fiction, to more harm being done to this woman.

I’m having a hard time knowing if that means in a situation like this I would have brave enough to stand up and say no more at the risk of punishment to myself or if I would have been a coward and walked away like I am walking away from this book.  I can’t read anymore…and that’s the dilemma I am now in.  I certainly hope I would have been strong enough to try to stop it even if it meant risk to myself…

The thing is, I’d like to know what happened to Pheby.  Was she able to escape?  Was she reunited with her love?  Could she save her babies?  Could she save herself?  Did the awful man the Jailer get what was coming to him?  I guess I won’t know.  I can’t get past the spot I am in.  It’s too hard to read.

Here is what Amazon had to say:
Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her 18th birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.”

Amazon readers gave the book 4.7 stars…I can’t rate it.  I didn’t finish it, and I won’t.

You can find the book HERE if you want to give it a try.

16 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Yellow Wife”

  1. I can’t read this book. I can’t read anything where there is a lot of cruelty or torture. It bothers me too much. The more real it is the less I can read it. Thanks for heads up.

  2. During this pandemic, caring for an elderly parent, and weathering our current political climate, my reading has totally dried up. Read for what you need at this time. The book will be there, and at another time may be just what you need. It isn’t now.

  3. If it were true fiction, it would be OK to read. But, it happened to women, and it happens to women still. THAT is what makes it horrid and unreadable. How do we protect women in our country and our world? :-(

  4. Jo, I’m with you. This book came up on a recommended reading list, but even the summary was too much for me. I’m guessing that she triumphs, but with all the suffering, hardships, and isolation our friends, relatives, neighbors, our country, and the world have been undergoing the past year, I just want some sunshine and lightness. On Feb. 1st, I staeted a 21-day challenge/reading group on Racial Equity with 13 other public attorneys, and that is all the bandwidth I have right now.

    1. Judith Fairchild

      Years ago I read a book with almost the same kind of abuse. Only it was the master of the plantation. It gave me nightmares and I realized women have lu ed and triumphed or died from it the terrible thing is it still happens even here in our country. No I don’t want or need to read that kind of book. I’m glad you didn’t finish it.

  5. I read for enjoyment & mostly at night when I’ve gone to bed so I probably wouldn’t want to read this book. Thank you Jo for the warning of the atrocities that happen to the main character!

  6. I cant read books about slavery does that make me ignorant and avoiding what has and is happening in the world. I dont think so,i under3this happens to people i dont need it thrust in my face. As you said this last 12 months have been difficult enough,light is needed even if it is only in our reading. I agree with you not a book for me.

  7. If the violence etcetera are done for effect or glorified in any way I would not read it. It does feel horrible to read that sort of thing. But if it is bad to read I imagine it is so much worse to go through so perhaps I need to read to truly understand how bad things really were for slaves. However the description of the book does not sound real to me. Just someone making money on a tragedy. So I think I would not read it or feel bad about not reading it.

  8. Well, Jo, I had to quit halfway through your description of the book. If that makes me a coward, or one who wants to bury her head in the sand, so be it. But, just reading the first part of your narrative made me want to read Winnie the Pooh again. And again.

    1. I have a friend who recently told me that she does this with EVERY book that she reads! If she doesn’t like the ending, she doesn’t read the book! I do peek at an ending once in a while, but I couldn’t do it every time. I agree…with this book, I’d skip the brutality and read the ending.

  9. Thank you. I was considering getting the book but $13.99 for a kindle version stopped me. Mostly I read free books on unlimited. It was a terrible time in our history. I have read numerous holocaust books. Its amazing how they can be so similar but so different as well. I am drawn to them because they do have a happy ending, the author lives and has a family he gifts his book to.

  10. One reason I like reading a book rather than watching a movie is that I control the experience and pace of the book. I figure if Readers Digest can condense books, so can I. I have chosen to pick up the book. I can control the experience. I always loved books by James Michener, but I learned I had to start the books about a quarter of the way in, once there was story with people moving along. From then on, I usually couldn’t put the book down, and I would go back and read the beginning. Not every book is good, or good for you at that point of time, so take what you want from the book, skip chapters, read the ending, and move on and find the right book for you.

  11. I see no reason to continue to read a book or watch a movie that your not interested in, one can choose to move on. My husband likes Sci Fi types of books and movies, me not so much. I think its all the aliens eating us or worse that I find hard to watch and the gore, nope not joining in. I’m glad that you give us reviews that are honest and straightforward.

  12. Hi Jo,
    This book has been coming up on my list of “to reads” lately. I haven’t purchased it yet, and now, Many Thanks to you, I won’t. I can’t tolerate such ugliness. I know it happened, and I am so very sorry it ever did. A very shameful period of American History.

  13. I, too, have quit reading a book I have found too dark. I read for pleasure, and subjects that make me cringe are not worth spending my time on. Thanks for the heads up on this book.

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