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 who 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 into a tale beyond what you ever imagined possible and leave you enraptured until the very end.
Narrated by two women with a unique and compelling bond- Sarah, the slave and Theodora the wife of plantation owner Mr. Allen, you see two different viewpoints of plantation life in Alabama in the mid 1800s.
Sarah yearns for freedom. She is treated differently from the other slaves because she is not only the master’s daughter, but the playmate of his other daughter Clarissa. Clarissa likes having Sarah by her side and even requests Sarah’s presence during her school lessons. Thus, Sarah learns to read and write, an activity that is actually illegal for Negroes during this period of time. Learning awaken’s Sarah’s mind to the possibility of someday escaping her life of servitude and becoming a free woman.
Theodora, initially resents Sarah and most of all, Emmaline, Sarah’s mother for taking Cornelius’ attention away from his wife and his marriage bed. But soon Cornelius begins to change and become mean and distant. Theodora throws herself into teaching her daughter her studies, and Sarah along with her.
What I liked about this book was I didn’t get the dark, heavy depressing feel I normally get when reading books about slavery. Yes, there were beatings, yes there was mistreatment of slaves but because that wasn’t the focus of the book so it was never dwelled on and drawn out.
I enjoyed hearing life from Sarah’s point of view and learned some about what it took a slave to be able to escape their bonds and all the people who helped along the way. The ending, though a little bittersweet has a remarkable twist, Based on a true story, The Wedding Gift was an easy summer read with a potent ending. 3/5 stars