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In the tradition of Wench 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 In the tradition of Wench 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.


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In the tradition of Wench 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 In the tradition of Wench 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.

30 review for Yellow Wife

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Historical Fiction book. This book takes place in the South (Virginia, but some of the places talked about in the book is in North Carolina) during the time people had slaves. We follow young female slave called Pheby Delores Brown. I have to say this book was hard to read at times, but I really think everyone should read this book. It is a part of the Sothern past, and we cannot forget it. I feel the characters came to live in this book. I think this is the first book that was told in This is a Historical Fiction book. This book takes place in the South (Virginia, but some of the places talked about in the book is in North Carolina) during the time people had slaves. We follow young female slave called Pheby Delores Brown. I have to say this book was hard to read at times, but I really think everyone should read this book. It is a part of the Sothern past, and we cannot forget it. I feel the characters came to live in this book. I think this is the first book that was told in the point of view of a slave that I have read. This book was so beautifully written, and Miss Pheby touched my heart so many ways. I did not want to put this book down. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Simon & Schuster) or author (Sadeqa Johnson) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review about how I feel about this book, and I want to send a big Thank you to them for that. (*) I have since brought a hard cover copy of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This story is inspired by the story of Mary Lumpkin and Lumpkin’s jail in Richmond, Virginia. Bell Plantation, Charles City, Virginia, 1850. Pheby Delores Brown, after losing her mother and after broken promise of freedom, she is being sold to traders. At an auction, she is “rescued by gentleman’s kindness.” Rubin Lapier is the owner of the jail, where Pheby spent the night before the auction. And now is one of the workers at the jail sewing, mostly mending clothing. Her constant companion is “th This story is inspired by the story of Mary Lumpkin and Lumpkin’s jail in Richmond, Virginia. Bell Plantation, Charles City, Virginia, 1850. Pheby Delores Brown, after losing her mother and after broken promise of freedom, she is being sold to traders. At an auction, she is “rescued by gentleman’s kindness.” Rubin Lapier is the owner of the jail, where Pheby spent the night before the auction. And now is one of the workers at the jail sewing, mostly mending clothing. Her constant companion is “the click-clack sounds” of slaves’ iron confinements and “the moaning from inside the jail…” Should she follow in the footsteps of a woman she saw at the market? A woman like her, who isn’t free, “yet she lived a life better than some white women.” There is a reason why the jail is called the Devil’s Half Acre. Whenever she thinks she can endure this place, there is a reminder that she cannot. The fastest page-turner ever and heart-pounding read. On one hand, the jail owner, known as the Bully Trader and on the other, a beautiful young slave woman. He is one of the cruelest people if not the cruelest person in town. He trades slaves without any scruples and enforces brutal punishments when requested by other slave owners. He is also a master of his “wife,” who is forced first to make the right decision for herself and later for her children. Once a mother she needs to protect her children at any cost. This story brings heart-wrenching scenes of flogging, of slaves bidding, degrading transactions and agony of mothers being separated from their children and other members of the family. It’s all very real. This is a story of an extraordinary woman, who learns that as a mulatto she is worth more than a black slave. She was promised freedom at the age of eighteen. When that eludes her, she weighs her options very carefully. Does she want to be a run-away slave or make a life out of situation the life presented her with? With riveting prose the pages fly and the heart beats for the astonishing heroine. Well-developed character pulls you into the story immediately and stirs emotions within you. A grim time of history masterfully narrated. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    Whew this isn't an easy read, but it's a necessary read. I don't think I really even read the summary of this book before diving in and part of me wished I would have. It didn't take away from the importance of the novel, but this is one that you need to be mentally prepared for before diving in. CW: graphic depictions of slavery, death of a child (twice), repeated rape, mental/emotional/physical abuse, torturing of slaves (particularly in whippings), graphic depictions of imprisonment. Yellow Wi Whew this isn't an easy read, but it's a necessary read. I don't think I really even read the summary of this book before diving in and part of me wished I would have. It didn't take away from the importance of the novel, but this is one that you need to be mentally prepared for before diving in. CW: graphic depictions of slavery, death of a child (twice), repeated rape, mental/emotional/physical abuse, torturing of slaves (particularly in whippings), graphic depictions of imprisonment. Yellow Wife can be misleading if readers just look at the cover and title. While perusing my library's audiobook collection, I came across this book and thought it might an interesting read. Little did I know, it's based on the story of Mary Lumpkin who was an imprisoned sex slave to Robert Lumpkin. Similar to Mary's story, readers follow Pheby Brown from her time of being a slave on a plantation to her time spent with the jailer who owns a prison known as Devil's Half Acre. I'm very intentional about my use of the term "sex slave" because as described through Pheby's narrative, the physical relationship existed out of the need to survive not because of true love or attraction. This is vital to keep in mind as readers follow the fast paced narrative created by Johnson. It is important to note that Yellow Wife is often compared to other slave narratives and while I understand the comparison, this book stands on it's own. It captures an interesting aspect of slavery: the experiences of those identified as biracial, those slaves who have to navigate their enslavement in a very different way. Pheby, understanding her privilege in being fair skinned, believes that her slave master will set her free and send her to the North to get an education. Unfortunately, the favoritism shown to Pheby pisses off the slave master's wife. Johnson does a great job illustrating the tumultuous relationship that has existed between White women and Black women especially during slavery. When White men raped and abused Black women resulting in children, White women took to blaming Black women without holding their husband responsible. The ill treatment that Black women often faced at the hands of the wives of slave masters is gratuitous. Nevertheless, Pheby eventually finds herself in the ownership of one of the most notorious jail owners in Virginia. His insatiable bloodlust will make readers cringe to their core. However, Johnson challenges readers to press forward, to engage with the fast paced narrative that keeps all on the edge of their seats until the conclusion. Pheby quickly learns that regardless of her skin tone, her ability to pass for White she is no better than those slaves kept in the jailhouse. Yellow Wilfe then becomes a story about survival and motherhood. Pheby endures the suffering for the sake of her children. This story tackles so much and does so very well. From colorism to the weaponizing of Black hair to motherhood. This is not a novel to be missed in 2021. It's one of the best historical fiction novels that I've ever read. The writing was phenomenal with a fast paced plot and excellent character development. I'm grateful to Sadeqa Johnson for listening to the ancestors and taking the opportunity to capture this story. I highly recommend this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Terrie Robinson

    "Yellow Wife" by Sadeqa Johnson is beautifully written African American Historical Fiction! Pheby Delores Brown is born a slave on the Bell Plantations in Charles City, Virginia. Her mother the plantation's medicine woman, her father the plantation owner, Master Jacob. Master Jacob and his sister, Miss Sally favors Pheby for her light skin and natural beauty. Miss Sally teaches her to read, play the piano and spends her days with Pheby. Master Jacob protects Pheby and promises her freedom at 18 "Yellow Wife" by Sadeqa Johnson is beautifully written African American Historical Fiction! Pheby Delores Brown is born a slave on the Bell Plantations in Charles City, Virginia. Her mother the plantation's medicine woman, her father the plantation owner, Master Jacob. Master Jacob and his sister, Miss Sally favors Pheby for her light skin and natural beauty. Miss Sally teaches her to read, play the piano and spends her days with Pheby. Master Jacob protects Pheby and promises her freedom at 18 years old. Missus Delphina, Jacob's wife is jealous and openly cruel to Pheby. While Jacob is away on business she quickly sells Pheby to slave traders and arranges for her transport to the infamous Devils Half Acre Jail in Richmond, Virginia. This is a filthy jail where slaves are imprisoned under horrific conditions. Slaves are beaten, starved, left in cells surrounded by human waste and eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder. The jail owner, Rubin Lapier sees Pheby and rescues her away from the auction block. No white woman will marry Rubin based on his reputation as the jailer. But Rubin wants children and so begins his plan to make Pheby Mistress of the Devils Half Acre Jail. Pheby quickly begins to understand she has worth as a mulatto woman and perhaps her life with Rubin will be better than most white woman. She strikes a deal with Rubin and does what she has to do to survive and protect the ones she loves. The realities of what it felt like being a slave through Pheby's protagonist view point is difficult to listen to through this book. The cruelties, the humiliations, the mental turmoil, family separated, the circumstances of being someone's property - all of this and more is extremely daunting. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Robin Miles who reads with appropriate emotion for this heartbreaking story. It feels like Pheby is there with you telling her story. Her wonderful voice inflections add the drama specific to the context and her voicing of the different characters is realistic and believable! This amazing story was well researched by this author. It began with a family visit to the Richmond Slave Trail and discovering the half acre Lumpkin Jail where jailer, Robert Lumpkin lived with his mulatto wife, Mary and their five children. Thus the catalyst for this beautiful historical fiction story. Author, Sadeqa Johnson admits it was difficult to write about to a degree, but if African American ancestors could live it, then she could write about it. I love this story. I love the characters and the deep character development. I love how this story created deep emotions in me. I highly recommend this book to everyone. This is a book that needs to be read and shared, then shared over and over again!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vonda

    A beautifully written historical fiction set mostly in Virginia 1850. This one touches on so many raw emotions ....love, hate, resentment, fright, loss, family whether it be conventional or not. Well researched and fast moving storyline that tells such a deep emotional story of the slaves and being sold, separated from everything they ever knew and how loved ones are lost due to nobody simply caring. Pheby's story is one that will stay with you for a long time. If you liked the Kitchen House thi A beautifully written historical fiction set mostly in Virginia 1850. This one touches on so many raw emotions ....love, hate, resentment, fright, loss, family whether it be conventional or not. Well researched and fast moving storyline that tells such a deep emotional story of the slaves and being sold, separated from everything they ever knew and how loved ones are lost due to nobody simply caring. Pheby's story is one that will stay with you for a long time. If you liked the Kitchen House this one is for you. I highly recommend it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Dealing with the same Hell. Just different devils..... Sadeqa Johnson presents a solid, walking-over-broken-glass historical fiction novel centered on plantation life in Charles City, Virginia. To her well focused credit, Johnson took a nugget of an idea while walking the Richmond Slave Trail with her family and transformed it into an outstanding novel. There was indeed a jailer who lived on a half acre of land overseeing a prison where slaves were bought and sold. He lived with his mulatto wife a Dealing with the same Hell. Just different devils..... Sadeqa Johnson presents a solid, walking-over-broken-glass historical fiction novel centered on plantation life in Charles City, Virginia. To her well focused credit, Johnson took a nugget of an idea while walking the Richmond Slave Trail with her family and transformed it into an outstanding novel. There was indeed a jailer who lived on a half acre of land overseeing a prison where slaves were bought and sold. He lived with his mulatto wife and five children. And there was the first flicker of light guiding the way for this outstanding novel. We will come to know Pheby Delores Brown, a slave by her birth, but set to the side by Master Jacob and his sister. Light of skin and touched with natural beauty, Pheby was given privilege. She learned to read and to play piano and was doted on by Miss Sally. Her duties were light. Master Jacob gifted Pheby with the promise that she would be set free on her eighteenth birthday and would be sent to Massachusetts to attend a girls' school there. But those devils take their places and grab the reins to veer off the righteous path time and time again. Master Jacob is away on his business travels and his wife, Missus Delphina, has the opportunity to spill her wrath upon Pheby. In a fit of rage, she sentences Pheby to a life at the abominable Devil's Half Acre in Richmond run by its namesake, Rupert Lapier, a devil of a man. He immediately takes to Pheby and sets her up as the mistress of his jail. They will have children together. But Pheby has her eyes set on freedom. Sadeqa Johnson creates Pheby as a multi-layered character. As much as her advantages while living at Bell Plantation made her prosper as a young lady, it never served her well as she was thrust into a horrendous life that she only observed on the peripheral. She knew of the unspeakable inhumane treatment of slaves, but she was originally at arm's length from it. Her naivete is viewed on the surface as to her relationship with the slave worker, Essex Henry, who will impact her life greatly. We will ponder Pheby's actions throughout the novel. For survival's sake, she dances with the devil. Please note: Johnson includes many graphic scenes of horror throughout her novel. She never sugar coats the abominations of slavery and its dehumanizing aftermath. Yellow Wife is a stark and long hard look at what transpired during this time in history. But it also includes "the rising".....from the depths of Hell and the suppression of even breath, valiant men and women found their voices and their footholds from beyond these clutches from an evil that still whispers its vile message even today.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalie ✩★ The Biblioholic ★✩

    I'm finding it impossible to stop thinking about this book! Pheby's story has had a firm grip on my heart from its opening lines and it seems to have no intention of letting me go. At seventeen, she was unprepared for what life had in store for her. Born a slave, she was raised to never believe herself to be one and by comparison, she was shown to be several steps above. When tragedy strikes, everything she knew, every bit of safety she ever felt, was suddenly ripped away and Pheby learned quick I'm finding it impossible to stop thinking about this book! Pheby's story has had a firm grip on my heart from its opening lines and it seems to have no intention of letting me go. At seventeen, she was unprepared for what life had in store for her. Born a slave, she was raised to never believe herself to be one and by comparison, she was shown to be several steps above. When tragedy strikes, everything she knew, every bit of safety she ever felt, was suddenly ripped away and Pheby learned quick what it was to have absolutely no rights and no freedoms. To have every move dictated, to have every thought deemed unworthy, to have no control over her own body. She learned though. She found ways to survive, to adapt, to thrive. And when given the chance, despite the many times she almost lost hope, she gave her all and proved what she was willing to sacrifice for love. One of the things I loved most about this story was how raw it felt. It gutted me, flayed me wide open, scattered my feels all over the place. As a black woman, I can never truly imagine the horrors that my people faced during slavery. So much of what they experienced is lost. And although we live in times that are far better than what existed then, we're not on equal footing. Racism still exists and it oozed through the pages of this book. The hatred, the ignorance, the hypocrisy... all of it was tempered by the faith and pride of Pheby and the people she cared about. While these characters were constantly on edge, they found love and hope and freedom amongst themselves. It was beautiful and had an almost poetic quality to it. I wavered on giving this book all of the stars simply because I wasn't satisfied with the ending. But then I realized that I probably wouldn't have been satisfied if the author had gifted us with some grandiose version of a romantic happily ever after either. I'd probably be pissed, to be honest. There was nothing pretty to be found during those times, but the author found a way to highlight the profound beauty that couldn't be defeated. And for that... all the stars!! For this review and more...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karren Sandercock

    Pheby Delores Brown lives with her mama in the slave quarters at Bell Plantation she’s an herb woman and spins cotton. Master Jacob promised Pheby her freedom on her eighteenth birthday, when he’s killed and his spiteful wife Missus Delphina sends her away with slave traders. Her mama also died from the wounds she sustained in the carriage accident that killed Master Jacob and she’s in a state of shock! The journey from the plantation to the slave jail at Devil’s Half-Acre is horrendous, when it Pheby Delores Brown lives with her mama in the slave quarters at Bell Plantation she’s an herb woman and spins cotton. Master Jacob promised Pheby her freedom on her eighteenth birthday, when he’s killed and his spiteful wife Missus Delphina sends her away with slave traders. Her mama also died from the wounds she sustained in the carriage accident that killed Master Jacob and she’s in a state of shock! The journey from the plantation to the slave jail at Devil’s Half-Acre is horrendous, when it’s her turn to be auctioned and she’s kept by the owner Rubin Lapier. Rubin Lapier owns Devil’s Half-Acre he decides to keep Pheby as his mulatto mistress; no white woman will marry him due to his terrible reputation and he wants children. He’s violent, he sells slaves of all ages, including young mulatto girls and he calls them fancy girls. Over the years Pheby has four daughters to her master, he treats her slightly better than his other slaves and he makes sure she knows it could change at any time. Yellow Wife at times is a hard book to read, what Rubin Lapier did to his slaves was beyond horrific; it was like he had two personalities, one the caring father and the other a very cruel slave trader. Pheby made many sacrifices; she was a wonderful mother and secretly helped ease the suffering of slaves while waiting to be sold at Devil’s Half-Acre. It’s a well written story about a very difficult subject, slavery was heinous, incredibly cruel and Rubin Lapier was a monster. I received a copy of Yellow Wife from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review and I gave the book five stars. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    My first 5 star read of 2021! Yellow Wife is beautifully written, absolutely heartbreaking and will stay with me for a very long time. I was completely captivated by the first page and couldn't put this book down. Pheby Delores Brown, such a strong willed and truly incredible woman. The life she was promised on her 18th birthday, being freed from slavery was anything but now her life played out. When thrown into horrible circumstances she managed to stay strong and adapt to her environment. Thro My first 5 star read of 2021! Yellow Wife is beautifully written, absolutely heartbreaking and will stay with me for a very long time. I was completely captivated by the first page and couldn't put this book down. Pheby Delores Brown, such a strong willed and truly incredible woman. The life she was promised on her 18th birthday, being freed from slavery was anything but now her life played out. When thrown into horrible circumstances she managed to stay strong and adapt to her environment. Throughout the horror she was faced with she was forever thinking of those close to her heart. Even when that put her own life at risk. Yellow Wife is a heavy read. The horrifying treatment inflicted by white slave traders was really hard to stomach. The descriptions are very graphic. I can honestly say I had never read anything like this before. Inspired by the story of Mary Lumpkin and the Lumpkin's jail in Richmond, Virgina. This is a must read for historical fiction lovers! Thank you so much Simon and Schuster Canada for my review copy!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Candie

    This is one of those books that will literally stay with you forever. It was absolutely heartbreaking, extremely graphic and made me feel sick to my stomach, but I could not put it down. My heart was pounding throughout this entire book. It is so hard to believe that this is a real part of our history. The brutal punishments that were inflicted on human beings just blows my mind. How was this endured? How could someone do these things? I can't even comprehend it. It was very hard to read but I b This is one of those books that will literally stay with you forever. It was absolutely heartbreaking, extremely graphic and made me feel sick to my stomach, but I could not put it down. My heart was pounding throughout this entire book. It is so hard to believe that this is a real part of our history. The brutal punishments that were inflicted on human beings just blows my mind. How was this endured? How could someone do these things? I can't even comprehend it. It was very hard to read but I believe it is important to know. The characters and emotions in this book were extremely well written and I felt for them as if they were real people. The writing was excellent. The bravery that some of the women in this story showed is astounding. I can't imagine ever having that much courage.The choices that people had to make in order to protect themselves and their loved ones were incomprehensible to someone who has lived the life I have lived. These people were heroes This book is inspired by a real family and a real jail in Virginia and it is set to be released on January 12, 2021 and I could not recommend it enough!! This book is amazing! I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Sadeqa Johnson packes a serious punch in this book! The story of Pheby Delores Brown (aka the Yellow Wife) is complex, captivating, heartbreaking, and inspiring, all at the same time. The story is like no other slavery story that I have read, and I have read many. One of my most memorable experiences was visiting the Whitney Plantation in New Orleans and purchasing several books which told of the heartbreaking stories of those once enslaved there; but even those didn't prepare me for the emotion Sadeqa Johnson packes a serious punch in this book! The story of Pheby Delores Brown (aka the Yellow Wife) is complex, captivating, heartbreaking, and inspiring, all at the same time. The story is like no other slavery story that I have read, and I have read many. One of my most memorable experiences was visiting the Whitney Plantation in New Orleans and purchasing several books which told of the heartbreaking stories of those once enslaved there; but even those didn't prepare me for the emotions I felt reading this story. It is so achingly well-told and researched, inspired by historic "yellow wives" of infamous Virginia jails. Apparently jailers were looked down upon for their occupation and not deemed worthy of "proper" marriages, so they often took bi-racial women as wives. Pheby was born to a slave mother and a plantation owner father. Because of her father, she was treated differently and sheltered from much of the harshness of slavery, even being taught to read and write, and play the piano. Her father has promised her freedom at the age of eighteen, and she cannot wait to be free and marry her love, fellow slave, Essex Henry. Her father's wife deeply resents her though, and when he is away, she suspects that Pheby helped Essex escape and as such, sells Pheby to a slave trader. Pheby endures a brutal journey to the "Devil's Acre" jail, where on arrival, the jailer, Rubin Lapier, spots her and because of her light-skinned beauty, claims her as his own. Pheby is unaware at the time that she is pregnant with Essex's baby, and she resists Lapier's advances. After her son is born though, she realizes she must keep him safe, and she agrees to become Lapier's “yellow wife,” in exchange that he will never sell her son. She finds herself running his household and bearing him four daughters. As time passes, she realizes just how much Lapier detests her firstborn, and she knows that she must find a way to send him to freedom before Lapier breaks his word and sells him - or worse. When a chance meeting with Essex sets a course in motion, her plan becomes much more dangerous and heartbreaking (I read those chapters with my heart in my throat!). The story is told in first-person narration, which I loved, as it opened a window into the unbearable burden of the double life Pheby endured - she had to constantly submit herself in every way to a wretched man in order to keep herself and her children safe. I loved how she outwitted Lapier at nearly every step though, and where her journey ultimately took her. There could not be a happy ending, per se, but Johnson's conclusion was both satisfying and poignant. An emotional tale of promise, hope, despair, heartache, and love that is a must-read for historical fiction fans in 2021. I hope Sadequa Johnson is already working on her next book, because I am already impatiently waiting for it! All the stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    With tears in my eyes I’m recommending everyone preorder a copy - pub date 1/12/2021 . Compelling story of a slave- love, sacrifice and horrific circumstances. Amplifies a piece of history that is unbearable. Full review to come on Book Nation by Jen.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kerrin P

    Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson is the engrossing story of a mulatto slave named Pheby Delores Brown. Beginning in 1850 and going through 1857, Pheby bravely endures her life as a slave. Pheby’s mother was the plantation medicine woman who was impregnated by the owner, Master Jacob. At the beginning of her life, Pheby was pampered by Master Jacob’s sister, Miss Sally. Pheby, who had been promised her freedom at the age of 18, was educated and taught to play the piano. After Miss Sally dies, Master Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson is the engrossing story of a mulatto slave named Pheby Delores Brown. Beginning in 1850 and going through 1857, Pheby bravely endures her life as a slave. Pheby’s mother was the plantation medicine woman who was impregnated by the owner, Master Jacob. At the beginning of her life, Pheby was pampered by Master Jacob’s sister, Miss Sally. Pheby, who had been promised her freedom at the age of 18, was educated and taught to play the piano. After Miss Sally dies, Master Jacob married a vicious woman. While Jacob was recovering from an accident, his wife had Pheby sent to the Lapier Jail in Richmond, VA to be sold as a “fancy girl”. Lapier Jail is also known as Devil’s Half-Acre, where the cruel owner, Ruben Lapier, makes sure slaves are broken, tortured, and then sold. Instead of being auctioned, Lapier takes the beautiful Pheby as his own. Unbeknown to her, Pheby was pregnant at the time from her one interaction with the Bell Plantation stableman, Essex Henry, whom she loved. Essex had escaped from Bell Plantation shortly before Pheby was sent to Lapier Jail. After delivering a son she names Monroe, the jailer moves Pheby into his home and makes her his “yellow wife”. Of course, it is illegal for them to wed, and Lapier makes it clear that Pheby is his property. As promised, he does not sell Monroe but he keeps them separated as much as possible. While the jailer treats Pheby well, she is basically his sex-slave. She bears him five children. Pheby’s profound love for all her children governs every action she takes. This novel is a well-researched historical fiction. It is gut-wrenching to hear of the cruelties that were inflicted upon slaves. I wish there had been a little more suspense at the end of the novel when Pheby must outsmart Lapier to protect Monroe and his father, Essex, who has reappeared. 4.5-Stars rounded up to 5.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura • lauralovestoread

    Wow. Days later and the story and characters are still with me. Absolutely beautiful writing and I’m just over here with a book hangover now. Yellow Wife is a heartbreaking and emotional read, but also emits such power as Pheby Delores Brown comes to life from the first few pages. Johnson has outdone herself with attention to detail and research that went into this book, and while reading a historical fiction based on a true story such as this can be difficult, there are also themes of love and fa Wow. Days later and the story and characters are still with me. Absolutely beautiful writing and I’m just over here with a book hangover now. Yellow Wife is a heartbreaking and emotional read, but also emits such power as Pheby Delores Brown comes to life from the first few pages. Johnson has outdone herself with attention to detail and research that went into this book, and while reading a historical fiction based on a true story such as this can be difficult, there are also themes of love and family between Mother and Daughter that are so cherished in a story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    laura ☼

    5/5 stars This is sincerely one of the best books I have read... EVER. Oh my god, PLEASE don't let this masterpiece fly under your radar. They call this place the Devil's Half Acre. Now I knew the devil. This is the story of Pheby Brown, who was born and raised on a plantation. She and her sweetheart, Essex, plan to have their freedom and spend their future together. However, when tragedy strikes Pheby is sold to the jailer of the infamous and brutal slave jail- the Devil's Half Acre. Let me j 5/5 stars This is sincerely one of the best books I have read... EVER. Oh my god, PLEASE don't let this masterpiece fly under your radar. They call this place the Devil's Half Acre. Now I knew the devil. This is the story of Pheby Brown, who was born and raised on a plantation. She and her sweetheart, Essex, plan to have their freedom and spend their future together. However, when tragedy strikes Pheby is sold to the jailer of the infamous and brutal slave jail- the Devil's Half Acre. Let me just say, that the things that happen in this jail, as well as the stories our main character hears from other slaves, harrowed me to my core. And the fact that the author based everything off of real torture and abuse slaves had to endure back then just makes it pack so much more of a punch. This book made me think, it made me angry, it made me cry (A LOT). The main characters are based off of real life figures and the author incorporated the names of real people into this story. I love how well written and well researched this feels. Every character, every scene, came to life on the page. I love Pheby and her determined, defiant attitude throughout. Even though I got frustrated with her choices at times, I respect her will to do anything to protect the ones she loves. As for the jailer and Missus Delphina, they've made it to my top two hated characters of ALL TIME. This book is SO GOOD. The characters, the writing, the whole ass book are literal PERFECTION and I can't say that about very many books. Please, please, please READ THIS BOOK. I hope a lot more people read this so we can all talk about it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    WHAT A WHIRLWIND. Like I’m so emotional right now. This book will make you angry, sad, a tiny bit hopeful, then throw you right back into this emotional cycle. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, then this better be on your TBR! Please excuse me while I go and get Sadeqa Johnson’s entire backlist

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kammy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy of this book via netgalley! A beautifully written yet heartbreaking read. You will tear up when reading the harsh treatments described in this book. The author is fierce for including such harsh realities in her book. If we don’t read about such atrocities, we will forget and be prone to redoing our mistakes. Let this book make you feel uncomfortable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    Visit https://booknationbyjen.com for Q & A with Sadeqa Johnson. With tears in my eyes, I’m recommending everyone read Yellow Wife, an engrossing, compelling, and beautifully written story. Pheby is a born into slavery on a Virginia plantation; the white man who fathered her was the master, and her slave mother is the medicine woman for the community. Often getting special treatment, Pheby is expecting to be freed when she turns eighteen; she is looking forward to getting an education, but thing Visit https://booknationbyjen.com for Q & A with Sadeqa Johnson. With tears in my eyes, I’m recommending everyone read Yellow Wife, an engrossing, compelling, and beautifully written story. Pheby is a born into slavery on a Virginia plantation; the white man who fathered her was the master, and her slave mother is the medicine woman for the community. Often getting special treatment, Pheby is expecting to be freed when she turns eighteen; she is looking forward to getting an education, but things do not go as planned. After getting into trouble with her boyfriend who worked in the barn, Pheby, heartbroken, must run. She ends up at Devil’s Half Acre, a hell-like place where slaves are dragged in, brutally tortured, and then cleaned up, dressed up and sold. Her forced relationship with her jailer has her doing things that go against everything she believes and all that she is. This cruel and horrible man repeatedly saves her and breaks her as she sacrifices her freedom to protect the ones she cares for. “Whenever I started feeling as if I could endure this place, thee was always a reminder that I could not. “ Author Sadeqa Johnson tells this incredible story based on the past with grit and vivid description that will bring you to tears, yet is most important to recognize. The love and tenderness between some of these brave characters will keep you turning those pages with the hope that you will witness a worthy outcome. Yellow Wife, a fictional story based on a shameful part of our history, is a must read. Great for book club discussion. Visit Book Nation by Jen https://booknationbyjen.com for Q & A with author Sadeqa Johnson.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    Gritty, haunting, and extremely moving! Yellow Wife is a poignant, impactful tale that sweeps you away to Virginia during the mid-1850s and into the life of Pheby Delores Brown, a young woman of mixed race who struggles to survive a life of brutality and protect those she loves while confined within the walls of the Devil’s Half Acre prison and as the mistress of the jailer, Rubin Lapier. The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are vulnerable, strong, and scarred. And the plot is an e Gritty, haunting, and extremely moving! Yellow Wife is a poignant, impactful tale that sweeps you away to Virginia during the mid-1850s and into the life of Pheby Delores Brown, a young woman of mixed race who struggles to survive a life of brutality and protect those she loves while confined within the walls of the Devil’s Half Acre prison and as the mistress of the jailer, Rubin Lapier. The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are vulnerable, strong, and scarred. And the plot is an exceptionally enthralling tale about life, love, strength, bravery, hope, survival, savagery, violence, and the unimaginable horrors and injustices of slavery. Overall, Yellow Wife is a magical blend of historical facts, heart-wrenching emotion, and powerful fiction that does a wonderful job of reminding us that humanity can not only be cruel and barbaric, but also incredibly resilient and kind. Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    Johnson has done her research, crafting a story around the infamous Lumpkin jail in Richmond, Virginia during the 1850s, Protagonist Pheby Delores Brown, is a slave by her birth, but is provided privileges by her white father (Master Jacob Bell) and his sister, Sally, who teaches Pheby to read, speak "properly," and even play the piano. Master Jacob promises Pheby her freedom when she turns 18, and to send her to Massachusetts to attend a girls' school. His wife, Delphina, has a different agenda Johnson has done her research, crafting a story around the infamous Lumpkin jail in Richmond, Virginia during the 1850s, Protagonist Pheby Delores Brown, is a slave by her birth, but is provided privileges by her white father (Master Jacob Bell) and his sister, Sally, who teaches Pheby to read, speak "properly," and even play the piano. Master Jacob promises Pheby her freedom when she turns 18, and to send her to Massachusetts to attend a girls' school. His wife, Delphina, has a different agenda, taking her revenge on the fair and lovely Pheby, when Jacob and Pheby's mother are away for weeks on a business trip and badly injured on the return by spooked horses. Pheby is taken to the slave market, where she is taken as mistress to Rubin Lapier, jailer/owner of the Devil's Half Acre. After giving birth to the son of her lover, Essex Henry, she bears children for Rubin, but always plans to escape and reunite with Essex in Boston, until he is returned to Rubin to be made an example to all. A realistic, violent depiction of the evils of slavery and prejudice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erika Robuck

    Vivid and engrossing, THE YELLOW WIFE takes the reader on an emotional journey with Pheby, an enslaved woman in antebellum Virginia, whose will, conviction, and fortitude are tested in the horrific system in which she lives. From growing up on a plantation in Charles City, to being taken as a wife by a white jailer at the notorious Devil's Half Acre in Richmond, Pheby is forced to make choices and endure in impossible situations. But her strength, intellect, and great love for those in her care Vivid and engrossing, THE YELLOW WIFE takes the reader on an emotional journey with Pheby, an enslaved woman in antebellum Virginia, whose will, conviction, and fortitude are tested in the horrific system in which she lives. From growing up on a plantation in Charles City, to being taken as a wife by a white jailer at the notorious Devil's Half Acre in Richmond, Pheby is forced to make choices and endure in impossible situations. But her strength, intellect, and great love for those in her care propel her to a final test of courage where she must outwit her enslavers to protect those she holds most dear. Sadeqa Johnson is a skilled writer, allowing the reader to feel along with her characters. I couldn't put down THE YELLOW WIFE. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    ʚϊɞ Shelley's ʚϊɞ Book Nook

    I love Southern Historical Fiction. And this hauntingly beautiful and tragic novel did not disappoint. This is a story of great courage and love and made me feel all the feels. It is a remarkable story that was well written…The characters felt as though they were living alongside me telling me about their life and their journey. Pheby and her story will be with me for a very long time as this book has characters that will touch your heart and fill it with pain and joy. Sadeqa Johnson knows how t I love Southern Historical Fiction. And this hauntingly beautiful and tragic novel did not disappoint. This is a story of great courage and love and made me feel all the feels. It is a remarkable story that was well written…The characters felt as though they were living alongside me telling me about their life and their journey. Pheby and her story will be with me for a very long time as this book has characters that will touch your heart and fill it with pain and joy. Sadeqa Johnson knows how to express love through her characters in a simple yet poetic way. It's hard for modern-day white or black people to understand the relationship between jailers and their slaves. It's so much more complicated than we imagine. Ms. Johnson did a wonderful job of showing the reader the precarious relationship. The ending, especially, brought tears to my eyes. Such a wonderfully written story that I couldn't put down and read in one sitting...highly recommend! Disclousure: Thank you NetGalley, Sadeqa Johnson and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own. #NetGalley

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristin (Always With a Book)

    Thank you Simon and Schuster Audio for the gifted copy. This is a book that I know I will be not forgetting anytime soon. It's one of those that as difficult as it was to read, it's also the type that makes the most lasting impression and one that I will be raving about for some time to come. This is such a powerful read and it also packs quite the emotional punch. It is heartbreaking and intense yet also one that is filled with hope. The characters come to life on the pages and are so well-develo Thank you Simon and Schuster Audio for the gifted copy. This is a book that I know I will be not forgetting anytime soon. It's one of those that as difficult as it was to read, it's also the type that makes the most lasting impression and one that I will be raving about for some time to come. This is such a powerful read and it also packs quite the emotional punch. It is heartbreaking and intense yet also one that is filled with hope. The characters come to life on the pages and are so well-developed, especially Pheby Brown, known at the 'Yellow Wife.' She truly is a remarkable woman for all that she goes through, all the choices she is forced to make. I loved that this book was told from Pheby's point of view. It gives us such an insight into all the Pheby is going through. We really feel the burden that she is under, how she is coping with all that is going on. We see the toll that it takes, yet we see just how smart she really is. This book is inspired by a true story based on Mary Lumpkin and Lumpkin's Jail, known as "the Devil's half acre" in Richmond, Virginia. It's a part of history I knew nothing about and this is why I love reading genre - I feel I am always learning something new. I loved the author's note at the end of the book - it totally sent me down a rabbit hole of googling more about this. The attention to detail that Sadeqa Johnson has put into this book is remarkable, and while it is at times quite difficult to read, it is nevertheless an incredible story, one that I will absolutely be recommending to anyone who reads historical fiction. Audio thoughts: This was an amazing audio book. As hard as it was to listen to at times, Robin Miles really did a fantastic job bringing the book to life. Her pacing and intonation was spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion and tension into her voice as needed. You can see all my reviews at: https://alwayswithabook.blogspot.com/

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kitama Jamaila

    The Gnosis Book Club first read for the year. A young, half-white enslaved woman must struggle with the most ghastly, dreadful and horrible choices as she endeavors to maintain and save what little family structure she has left. Talk about the strength of a woman!! The story is told through the eyes of Pheby, who is a biracial girl born to a slave as a a other and a white Plantation owner. In my opinion, "Yellow Wife" is undaunted in its imageries of the violence, cold-heartedness and family sepe The Gnosis Book Club first read for the year. A young, half-white enslaved woman must struggle with the most ghastly, dreadful and horrible choices as she endeavors to maintain and save what little family structure she has left. Talk about the strength of a woman!! The story is told through the eyes of Pheby, who is a biracial girl born to a slave as a a other and a white Plantation owner. In my opinion, "Yellow Wife" is undaunted in its imageries of the violence, cold-heartedness and family seperations that Black women living in times of slavery, bondage and captivity faced, as well as the hard and daring choices they made to keep their children safe and alive. Across the Globe, but more so in the USA, black people continue to deal with issues of racism and racial injustice. The reading of "Yellow Wife" helped and painted a clearer picture- as the author's story was inspired by digging up the past of the Lumpkin's jail in Richmond Virginia. The Author Sadeqa Johnson has brilliantly shaped a woman whose literal fight to survive, to defend, to guard and to care for the ones she loves- definitely had me turning pages.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)

    Terrifying. Harrowing. Necessary. Sadeqa Johnson writes a story that will burn your soul and mind, a tale written in truth for readers. Pros 1. The story grips you from the start and doesn't let go until well after reading. As mentioned before, the story's terrifying and harrowing, leaving its readers fearful at every page turn, unsure of anyone approaching as characters. 2. Well-researched. The story's inspired by an actual woman. I yearn to learn the woman's story and, with guidance, provide Terrifying. Harrowing. Necessary. Sadeqa Johnson writes a story that will burn your soul and mind, a tale written in truth for readers. Pros 1. The story grips you from the start and doesn't let go until well after reading. As mentioned before, the story's terrifying and harrowing, leaving its readers fearful at every page turn, unsure of anyone approaching as characters. 2. Well-researched. The story's inspired by an actual woman. I yearn to learn the woman's story and, with guidance, provided by the acknowledgments, I will do so. 3. Quick pacing. It's a page turner, moving quickly, goading you to continue, though terrified. 4. Realistic characters. No clichés. Via their words and actions, they find themselves in earned categories on their own. 5. Johnson does not romanticize the "relationship" between Pheby and the Jailer. In fact, she calls him the Jailer throughout, using his names a few times. He does not earn humanity for his inhumane actions. 6. While the treatment of the slaves can be horrifying to read, understand that these actions happened in reality and Johnson refuses to let us turn away from history. Cons 1. A bit short. I wished Johnson had given the story a few more chapters. The ending felt a bit rushed. This story's worth five stars. Though the story's painful, its words never falter through the humanity deserved by those mistreated in such desperate times.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Well written engaging story about a larger than life woman making the best out of a horrible situation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This is Historical Fiction set in the Confederate South during the 1850's right before the start of the Civil War. The story centers on Pheby (the MC) who was a slave and she also happened to be the Master's biological daughter. I really liked this one because it didn't just cover the inhumanity and hardships the slaves had to suffer, but it also covered the topics of choice, will, sacrifice, trust, taking risks, and having hope. The main characters were vividly drawn. I also liked the relations This is Historical Fiction set in the Confederate South during the 1850's right before the start of the Civil War. The story centers on Pheby (the MC) who was a slave and she also happened to be the Master's biological daughter. I really liked this one because it didn't just cover the inhumanity and hardships the slaves had to suffer, but it also covered the topics of choice, will, sacrifice, trust, taking risks, and having hope. The main characters were vividly drawn. I also liked the relationships and the way they progressed (or didn't). This has been one of my favorite reads so far this month. So 4 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    This was well written, engrossing and harrowing. This is a fictionalized account of a real person and real institution. https://www.washingtonpost.com/histor... https://virginiahumanities.org/2018/0... https://www.smithsonianmag.com/histor... This story is traumatic and upsetting to read. Well written and well handled but the subject matter itself is so unbelievably horrifying, I'm aware that she pulled back from all she could've included, still it was a lot. Possible spoilers: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . This was well written, engrossing and harrowing. This is a fictionalized account of a real person and real institution. https://www.washingtonpost.com/histor... https://virginiahumanities.org/2018/0... https://www.smithsonianmag.com/histor... This story is traumatic and upsetting to read. Well written and well handled but the subject matter itself is so unbelievably horrifying, I'm aware that she pulled back from all she could've included, still it was a lot. Possible spoilers: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . This story has left me thinking about what responsibility, if any, do oppressed peoples have to each other over the system holding everyone back. At what point does compromise become collision? Can the reader ignore or forgive Mary's choices? However badly she felt she participated. She did feel herself superior to Sissy and other enslaved folks who had less choice than she did. Mary seems to view her daughters as white even thought they are born enslaved. It's like she isn't aware that amount of European blood doesn't legally change the status of enslaved peoples. I loved this but at the same time I want a deeper discussion of who Mary actually was. It's likely the historical Mary did not consider herself 'Black', colorism of the time being what it was and given that her children pass as white. She likely viewed them as white? Possibly herself as almost white? This book doesn't deal with any of that in any substantial manner. It's easy to forget that some mixed race POC fled Haiti in horror after the revolution just like their white contemporaries. I'm interested in exploring the antiblackness of a person with visible African ancestry during this time period.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    I am a sucker for historical fiction. I am also a sucker for well written historical fiction by authors of color. This book was a sad, powerful book. Inspired/based on the true life of a woman who married a jailer to slaves, Yellow Wife is one of those books that I'm sure will make the round in some book clubs and will leave you thinking about it when finished. I have never read anything by Sadeqa Johnson but she has a true talent for writing characters that feel real. I truly felt and mourned fo I am a sucker for historical fiction. I am also a sucker for well written historical fiction by authors of color. This book was a sad, powerful book. Inspired/based on the true life of a woman who married a jailer to slaves, Yellow Wife is one of those books that I'm sure will make the round in some book clubs and will leave you thinking about it when finished. I have never read anything by Sadeqa Johnson but she has a true talent for writing characters that feel real. I truly felt and mourned for every bit of Phelby's struggle - from the plantation that she started off on to the jail that became her home. The only reason that I rate it down a star is, as others said, the book ends rather fast and ends up with an epilogue. I wished to know the outcome but I guess one can gleam from the letters of what the outcome was and what did or did not happen. I don't know what I was looking for, but it just felt off to me. Nevertheless, this book hit me hard and I thank NetGalley and I thank Simon and Schuster for allowing me to read a copy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    Go ahead, sign me up for the heartache. :( This sounds so sad but important.

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