Review: Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Goodreads Synopsis: In the tradition of Wrench and Twelve Years a Slave, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia. Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Brown was promised her freedom on her eighteenth birthday. But when her birthday finally comes around, instead of the idyllic life she was hoping for with her true love, she finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half-Acre, a jail where slaves are broken, tortured, and sold every day. Forced to become the mistress of the brutal man who owns the jail, Pheby faces the ultimate sacrifice to protect her heart in this powerful, thrilling story of one slave’s fight for freedom.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Expected Date of Publication: January 12th, 2021

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 288 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

A big thank you to Sadeqa Johnson, Simon and & Schuster and Netgalley for the digital ARC of this book. 

Pheby Brown did not have a perfect life, but her mother had raised her with one promise, she would be a free woman on her eighteenth birthday. This promise would not come to pass. Her path takes a turn for the worse when she is sold to the Jailor who owns the Devil’s Half-Acre, a jail where people are beaten and sold to the highest bidder. Sacrifices have to be made, and Pheby will need to make hard choices to protect herself and the ones she loves most. 

A mother’s love knows no bounds. Yellow Wife is not a feel-good book. This is a ‘rip out your heart and stomp it to pieces’ book. That being said, I highly recommend it. There were some parts that I really struggled to get through, and a few times I had to put the book down and just take a breath for a moment. This story will gut you, it will sink into your soul and stay there long after you are finished reading. Prepare to cry, and prepare to feel a lot of pain while you read this book.

Sadeqa Johnson does a phenomenal job with the story of Pheby Brown. Her character is strong and resilient, and it’s very easy to understand the actions she takes, no matter how heartbreaking they are. I found it extremely interesting that this story is based off of real people who had lived in Richmond, Virginia. I’m thankful to the author for providing a narrative to a piece of history that otherwise might not have been told, simply because it’s not as ‘big news’ as other historical events.

The story itself is very engaging, and Sadeqa Johnson really pulls readers into life on the Devil’s Half-acre. No punches are pulled, and we are given the good and the bad with equal detail, no matter how horrific. The emotions felt by Pheby Brown are portrayed so intensely you can’t help but feel them too. Her spirit is unbreakable, and the fierceness of her love and dedication to the ones she cares about is a wonderful thing to experience. 

If you are a fan of historical fiction I recommend this book, and if you don’t have much experience with historical fiction I recommend you start here. Yellow Wife is not a happy story, but it is a piece of Southern US history that needs to be seen. This story will eviscerate you, but in a good way, I promise. Make sure to pre-order, or watch for it’s release on January 12th, 2021. 

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