The perfect balancing act for a historical romance

Yellow Wife
Reading Time: < 1 minute

Historical fiction can be a tricky business. Too much detail gives off the stench of a term paper; too few historical truths and the reader hovers above the narrative, never wholly immersed.

Sedeqa Johnson’s novel The Yellow Wife balances history and storytelling so deftly that reentering the real world is momentarily disorienting.

Pheby Delores Brown had plans for her life; freedom at eighteen and marrying her true love, Essex Henry. But, instead, she will be sent to the Devil’s Half Acre, where the jailer will force her to be his wife and bear his children. 

There are plenty of discomforts in this novel – brutality, sexual assault, illness, cruelty – none of it gratuitous, reflecting the truth of the time and place. However, the spark of light is Pheby’s tireless quest to give her children and Essex their freedom, an act of love that will cost her dearly.

For a more in-depth review and an understanding of the historical detail in The Yellow Wife, please see this NPR review.

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Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
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