The Wedding Gift
Sarah is the daughter of a slave and Mr Allen, an Alabama plantation owner. She plays with and shares lessons (illegally – slaves were not to be educated) with her half-sister Clarissa, and when they are eight becomes Clarissa’s maid. On Clarissa’s marriage she goes with her to her new home. Sarah longs to be free of the life which she and Clarissa’s mother Theodora narrate in turn, even though conditions on the Allen plantation are much better than most. The restrictions imposed on slaves in the mid-19th century, especially those who try to escape, are brutal and horrific, but they are described with a gentleness that is more powerful than fire and fury would be. Not only slaves are oppressed. The wives and daughters of the plantation owners suffer from domineering menfolk, as Theodora describes. Both she and Sarah are strong, resilient women, though, and Sarah’s determination to escape leads to an exciting climax. This is an impressive first novel, with interesting characters, especially the slaves and free Negroes, and I look forward to more from this author.