The Wedding Gift
by Marlen Suyapa Bodden
Hardcover- $23.59

 In 1852, when prestigious Alabama plantation owner Cornelius Allen gives his daughter Clarissa's hand in marriage, she takes with her a ...

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  "THE WEDDING GIFT by Marlen Suyapa Bodden" by mistyviolet (see profile) 09/14/13

I’m still not sure where or when the prologue was supposed to take place – perhaps it was a dream?
After some very stilted conversations and an inconsistent use of dialect, the story is interesting and holds your attention to the end. However, there are too many coincidences and the slaves are often well cared for (or allowed a lot of free time) by slave owners we are supposed to be appalled and repelled by. That is not to say slaves were not ill-treated and horribly abused, they were. Just that the depiction is as inconsistent as the dialect.
Fathers in the antebellum South are shown as overbearing, browbeating, abusive scoundrels. Mothers are meek and cowed. Sons are distant and uncaring. In other words many of the characters are caricatures. Still I enjoyed the book.
Book groups will be discussing slavery, abusive husbands and fathers, the role of women, education priorities, gossip and social ostracism among other topics. A comparison with The Help, To Kill a Mockingbird and/or The Color Purple would be an interesting discussion.
Note: I read an Advance Reading Copy, I hope the map appears in the front of the book or in the body of the text in the “real” book.

 
  "The Wedding Gift" by Silver's Reviews (see profile) 09/20/13

Poignant, heartbreaking, and unfortunately true.

THE WEDDING GIFT is beautiful in the sense of how the story is told in the author\'s marvelous prose and flowing style, but ugly in the harshness, cruelty, and reality of the events.

The characters will pull at your heart strings as you follow Emmeline, Belle, Sarah, and Theodora Allen through their day. The plantation owner\'s wife, Theodora Allen, is held under his thumb and must obey all his commands and put up with his physical and verbal abuse.

All these women are very strong characters in their own right, but have no rights in this era. This era seems to \"own\" the women whether they are free or enslaved. Another character who is one of the main characters, Clarissa Allen, Sarah\'s half sister and Clarissa\'s maid, is a spoiled brat but a good person underneath it all.

You will hate Mr. Cornelius Allen as well as most of the male characters for their cruelty and their shallow, arrogant thinking.

THE WEDDING GIFT is beautifully written and brings to light the way of life on a plantation and how it is run both inside and outside of the main house.

The book is told through Sarah and Theodora\'s voices. THE WEDDING GIFT talks about women and how they bond as well as how they endure the suffering at the hands of males whether it be verbal abuse, physical abuse, or infidelity. Infidelity on a plantation by the owner seemed to be something quite common.

I didn\'t want to put the book down. It was relayed so well and so smoothly that you felt as though you were there with all the characters crying with them and also helping them deal with what they had to endure whether they were the plantation\'s slaves or the owner\'s own family.

Don\'t miss out on this book....you just have to read it. You as a woman will want to share these experiences whether pleasant or unpleasant. You will also learn a great deal about history which more often than not is an unpleasant story as well as learning about the horrors of slavery and its impact on society.

A positive lesson though is to never give up, follow your dreams, and work hard. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 
  "The Wedding Gift, Marlen Suyapa Bodden" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 11/01/13

This story is told in two voices, one is that of the mistress of the Allen plantation, Theodora Allen, and the other is that of the slave, Sarah Campbell. This particular slave is the illegitimate child of the master, Cornelius Allen, and his slave and mistress, Emmeline.
Just a child, Sarah does not understand that she is a slave, and she questions everything. Her mother tries to teach her the ropes because a slave who thinks too much can be in great danger. Separated by only a few months in age, Sarah is raised with Clarissa, her half-sister, the legitimate child of Theodora and Cornelius and is allowed to play with her in the big house.
Clarissa is willful, bright, overindulged and very spoiled. Around the age of 8, Sarah and Clarissa cannot play together as much because Sarah must begin to learn how to work in the kitchen and how to eventually be a lady’s maid to Clarissa, and Clarissa must be educated like a lady. Clarissa is unhappy about not being able to play with Sarah as often as she likes, and she begins to badger her mother to allow Sarah to be with her when she has her lessons. Theodora finally relents. Sarah is also very bright, and she pays close attention, learning to read, write and do numbers, alongside Clarissa, even though she has no books or writing implements and is there only as an observer. When her mistress realizes this, she informs Sarah that she must never tell anyone that she can read and write because it is illegal for slaves to be educated. Theodora had been told that slaves were uneducable and was surprised to discover this was not true. She takes it upon herself to secretly continue Sarah’s education and provides reading material for her as she grows older. This education stands her in very good stead in her future.
From her earliest childhood, as she learns the rules she must always follow, Sarah resents being a slave and harbors dreams of escaping. She is strong and courageous, but the consequences, if caught, would be devastating. Mr. Allen was sometimes cruel to Sarah’s mother and her sister Belle, selling Belle as punishment, when Emmeline disobeyed him and stopped visiting him in his room. Belle was horribly abused and raped for a period of time, until Mr. Allen finally acquiesced to Emmeline’s pleas and paid to buy her back, when Emmeline once again moved into his bedroom. He had all the power. Emmeline had none. Sarah would dream of one day punishing him for his acts of cruelty toward her family.
Theodora is an obedient but thoughtful wife, although she, too, suffers abuse from her husband, Cornelius. Besides realizing that he is a heavy drinker who grows vicious when he is drunk, she knows he also keeps Emmeline as his mistress. She is unable to do anything about it because he controls her totally and is in complete charge of their affairs; there is little she can even do to protect herself. In a sense, Theodora is a slave also, albeit in a gilded cage. Her husband is as much of an “overseer” for her as are the “overseers” he has hired to watch over his slaves. She, like the slaves, is often subjected to beatings and threats if she does not acquiesce to all of his demands. She must even call him Mr. Allen, rather than Cornelius.
As slave masters go, though, Cornelius was among the most tolerant. He provided the slaves with decent living quarters, plentiful food, and clean, acceptable clothing. The slaves created little communities and a lifestyle for themselves that they could somehow endure. They had some free time and were often provided with the opportunity to earn their own money. They were rarely whipped because their conditions of life did not warrant disobedience. They did not want to escape because it would probably mean their recapture and eventual sale to another master who would not be as moderate. So long as they obeyed him and did not try to escape, their lives were more manageable there than they might be someplace else. Cornelius encouraged the slaves to marry and have children because their offspring became his personal slave trade, at practically no extra cost. He happily provided medical care and sustenance to an additional mouth, which he would need, eventually, to work on the plantation or to sell for cash.
When Clarissa married Julius Cromwell, Sarah was given to her as a wedding gift. Sarah and her own husband, Isaac, a coachman, accompanied Clarissa to her in-laws home. Once there, Sarah was forced to also work in the Cromwell kitchen and not devote herself to Clarissa full time, as a lady’s maid. When Clarissa gave birth to a son, the world was suddenly turned upside down. She is turned out of the Cromwell house and sent back to her own family before she is even completely recovered. Disaster follows. It is at this point that the book truly takes off and becomes a page turner. It is not until the very end that the secrets are all revealed and the book comes to a really surprising conclusion, one that no reader will guess unless that reader reads the last page first, something I advise strongly against doing because they will then miss out on a really interesting read.
The description of the slave’s lives, in their cabins and in the fields, or wherever they were assigned to work, feels so real and is told in such plain terms that the reader will be in that time period on the Allen estate, experiencing their lives along with them. The words will fly by, but the savagery of the slave owners and the bigotry and blindness they exhibited to the fact that these slaves were people, just like they were, may make the reader want to stop them from coming, or at least slow them down! The racial hatred and lack of concern for the pain, physical and emotional, of the slave, is really hard to take. The Underground Railroad, which led to recapture or to safety, was so dangerous, but it was the only way out and the secret lives within lives create greater and greater tension, page by page. Sarah’s future is in the balance and she experiences much, as the story continues, that will capture the reader before the book ends.
The way that human beings were kept as private property, the way the slaves were sold, the way punishment was meted out, was barbaric. I had a hard time keeping myself emotionally neutral because the author’s description of this despicable behavior was told in such a matter of fact way, that while it made the book easy to read, it also sometimes made me almost accept the life they lived. Yet this life was intolerable for those enslaved. Slavery, after all, was an abomination and blight on our history and the history of any people that enslaves another.

 
  "The Wedding Gift" by bmullinax (see profile) 11/14/13

The book started off somewhat slow but it got better as you read along. Interesting in regards to the way of life back then. Unfortunate how human beings were treated and ghastly how family could treat one another. However, bravery and hope rule the day!

 
  "The Wedding Gift" by Sharon3806 (see profile) 03/07/14

This book made for interesting discussion at bookclub.
The parallels of all of the female characters limitations was insightful of the time period in which it was set.

 
  "The Wedding Gift" by solvaygirl (see profile) 05/22/14

This book became a surprise to me. Very well written with great Character development. Found myself wanting to go pick up the book to see what happened next. And the ending you will never see coming.

 
  "" by mjrobb (see profile) 05/22/14

 
  "The Wedding Gift" by Bettina223 (see profile) 05/22/14

The last two paragraphs made for a very lively discussion. We all enjoyed the book and each had insights regarding the story line and the characters.

 
  "THE WEDDING GIFT" by simmab410 (see profile) 06/10/14

This book was engrossing. The story of two half-sisters, one white, one black. the story takes place before the Civil War. The story tells of the differences and the cruelty about slavery. I recieved a free copy of this book from another website. i loved it so much, I chose it for our june book club discussion.

 
  "" by ShastaLiz (see profile) 08/13/15

 
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