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The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

The Wedding Gift

by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

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THE WEDDING GIFT, a historical fiction, is a wonderfully crafted retelling of the dark side of our U.S. history – a time when people owned other human beings and often abused them worse than they mistreated animals. The story has been told before by many other authors, but never before THE WEDDING GIFT has anyone captured so vividly the despair the slaves, who had no control over their lives, must have felt. Ms. Bodden researched her topic well and told a compelling tale of Sarah Campbell, the slave daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in the Deep South before the Civil War. Sarah was willing to risk a beating or even death for freedom. Beatings were often so severe as to cause death.
This book was a real page-turner. I honestly could not put it down. THE WEDDING GIFT, the debut novel by Marlen Suyapa Bodden, is without a doubt one of the best books I have read. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
To learn more about THE WEDDING GIFT check our Marlen Suyapa Bodden’s website at http://marlenbodden.com/.
I received this book in a giveaway hosted by Julie Valerie’s Book Blog at www.julievalerie.com.
  Macjam47 | Feb 21, 2014 |
On an 1850's Alabama plantation known as Allen Estate, Sarah is the enslaved daughter of the master of the plantation. Trained to be a ladies maid, she waits upon her white half-sister Clarissa. Sarah's life bounces from being sometimes idyllic, sometimes horrific. She dreams of freedom, aided by Theadora, Clarissa's mother who is the mistress of the plantation. Theadora illegally teaches Sarah to read and write, along side her daughter Clarissa. As the young girls mature Clarissa commits an act that forever changes the lives of everyone on the plantation, especially Sarah. ( )
  queencersei | Dec 25, 2013 |
The Wedding Gift , by Marlen Suyapa Bodden narrated by, Jenna Lamia & January LaVoy

This was a great story. If you enjoyed The Kitchen House I think you will enjoy this one! Set in the time of slavery the story is told by slave Sarah and slave owner Theodora.

This was a fascinating story and made me realize something awful, so many slave owners had children with their slaves but never considered them their children, just their property to buy and sell and abuse at a whim. I just can’t understand how these men could treat their own flesh & blood this way that it is very disturbing.

There were times I thought for sure Sarah would see some very tough times because she seemed to talk about running away a lot and in front of people she shouldn’t trust. Her mother was an amazing woman who took care of her children the best way she knew how and did things she had to do to keep her children safe and close, I think the realization of that really hit her daughters when certain things happened to Belle, when Emmeline decided to try to stand up for herself and learned a hard lesson.

Then we have Theodora who came from a family that called its slaves servants and treated them much better than the family she married into, the Allen family is a much tougher bunch with not only its slaves but its women too. Theodora’s marriage isn’t a happy one no matter how hard she tries, add to that the fact that her husband is having relations with one of the house slaves, Emmeline and has fathered a child with her. But Theodora is an amazing woman and rises above the abuses her husband doles on her and everyone else and her and Emmeline actually become very close. Their daughters Clarissa and Sarah grow up together never realizing (till later) that they are sisters but these two girls grow up best friends spending all their time together including doing schoolwork, even though it is illegal for slaves to learn to read and write Theodora sees nothing wrong with this, but will she eventually pay the price for teaching Sarah to read & write?

Thoughts on the audio production, I am already a huge fan of Jenna Lamia but this was my first time hearing January LaVoy and I must say I was very impressed and will be finding more books narrated by her. The narration of this book was so perfect both narrators bring these two women to life with such ease, I was very impressed with the narration and it ranks up in the top 10 of the year.(2013)

If you haven’t guessed I truly loved this book, I thought it was a very well written story, and I enjoyed seeing things from both perspectives.

I highly recommend this book especially on audio!

5 Stars ( )
  susiesharp | Dec 10, 2013 |
This book follows the lives of two women in pre civil war Alabama. One a white wife of a plantation owner and the other the slave daughter of the plantation owner and one of his servants. The story follows the two women as theodora (the wife)'s daughter Clarissa is married off to an older man after becoming pregnant. Sarah, slave half-sister is sent of to be Clarissa's maid. After Clarissa's son was born her husband declares the child a bastard setting off a chain reaction of events. It was definitely a good read. Not the most intellectual of books but still a great plot with well developed characters. The realism of the story is enhanced by the fact this is a real historical case. ( )
  sarahzilkastarke | Nov 20, 2013 |
From this vantage point in history we tend to have very set ideas about what life on a southern plantation in the time of slavery looked like. And yet the reality was probably far more complicated than we can begin to imagine. One of the things that complicates the picture we have of slavery is the tangled web of relationship and family on these plantations where bi-racial children of the white master were born into slavery and considered property, where the closest age companion of a white child is likely to be a slave and potential half-sibling, where slaves are not legally allowed to marry but are encouraged to have children to increase the plantation's human holdings, and where a white mistress is also legally subjugated to her husband's will. In Marlen Suyapa Bodden's debut novel, The Wedding Gift, all of these things combine to create an intriguing tale of cruelty and cunning, desperation and deceit, survival and self-determination.

On the Allen plantation in Alabama, the master, Cornelius Allen, is a capricious and intermittently cruel man. He carries on a long time affair with house slave Emmeline, fathering her second daughter, Sarah. Only months later, daughter Clarissa is born to Cornelius and his long-suffering wife, Theodora. And so these two half-sisters grow up together at first as companions and later as maidservant and mistress. When they are children, Sarah is included in all that Clarissa does, including Clarissa's schooling. So Sarah, possessed of a quick and agile mind, learns to read and write. And although Sarah chafes at her captivity from that moment in time when she first understands it, harboring a desire to escape and trying to learn as much as she can about how to go about it, she is very quiet about her ability to read and write, knowing that this is perhaps an even bigger crime than asking others about running.

As Sarah and Clarissa grow and mature, their experiences diverge greatly although Sarah's fate remains intimately tied to Clarissa's. Sarah can never for one moment forget that she is a slave and that her life is not her own. Her mother, Emmeline, nor her sister, Belle, are in charge of their own fates either and they are all subject to the whims of Cornelius Allen. As odious and abusive as he is, when Clarissa marries, he gives Sarah and Sarah's husband to his daughter, putting Sarah in an even more untenable position than she faced as an illegitimate slave daughter on the Allen plantation. And when Clarissa's hasty marriage exposes a shameful secret, Sarah must look to herself for more courage and resilience than she ever thought she possessed.

The novel is narrated by two women, the slave, Sarah, and the white mistress, Theodora Allen, giving an inside perspective both from the point of view of one enslaved and of the seemingly privileged lady of the plantation. And yet both record great heartache as they recount their oddly parallel tales. They both might be under the thumb of Cornelius and the magnitude of their suffering is certainly different, but they each find a spirit and a resolve that carries them through to a life they might never have imagined. It was interesting to see each of their lives from the inside but both Sarah and Theodora came off as fairly distant emotionally. At the most emotionally fraught moments in their lives, they only reported what they felt, it didn't come through in the writing. Much of the action is reported from a journalistic remove as well and all of the characters have one indistinguishable voice in the narration. The action itself was fairly predictable although the final pages offer some unexpected revelations which were not quite adequately foreshadowed in the preceding pages and which seem a bit out of character. A couple of plot threads drive the story for a time but then just peter out. Despite these weaknesses, the novel is interesting in its take on slavery and the place of women and while it doesn't really break any new ground, those who enjoy historical fiction set in the antebellum south will appreciate this glimpse into this fictional plantation and the tides and undercurrents that drove the lives of those living there. ( )
  whitreidtan | Nov 3, 2013 |
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"When prestigious plantation owner Cornelius Allen gives his daughter Clarissa's hand in marriage, she takes with her a gift: Sarah, her slave and her half-sister. Raised by an educated mother, Clarissa is not the proper Southern belle she appears to be--with ambitions of loving whom she chooses--and Sarah equally hides behind the facade of being a docile house slave as she plots to escape. Both women bring these tumultuous secrets and desires with them to their new home, igniting events that spiral [out of control]"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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