Review: Yellow Wife

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I have a confession.

I listened to the audiobook of Yellow Wife instead of reading it, which makes it the first audiobook I’ve actually finished (the other I started, but didn’t finish, as an audiobook was The Midnight Library). I loved the narration. The breathy way the narrator described the setting, rehashed the dialogue, and emphasized Phebe Dolores Brown every time it was said just captivated me.

Rich in period detail, it’s clear that Sadeqa Johnson did her research when writing Yellow Wife. I loathed everything about the unrighteousness of the world Johnson created at the jail, but I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know that Phebe made it out okay.

What’s eternally heartbreaking is that, while Phebe herself was fictional, plenty of women were in similar situations, forced into roles they didn’t want during the abject failure of human consciousness and responsibility that was American slavery (cough Sally Hemings cough [for more about her infuriating situation, check out My Monticello]). This story sheds a modicum of light on the horrors these women (and men) endured at the hands of their fellow man (though calling a slaveholder a true man is a point I’ll gladly contest).

Yellow Wife was poignant, sharp, and immersive. I don’t know if it was the benefit of the narration, but I felt like I was standing in the jail yard while I was listening to it, watching everything unfold before my helpless eyes. I like historical fiction, especially about early American history, so I adored Yellow Wife. Anyone looking to broaden their perspective on our nation’s blemished history would do well to read this one.

Dates read (listened to?): October 7-13, 2021

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