Yellow Wife: A Novel (Paperback)
"I loved this historical fiction story based on a true "slave jail" where the main character, Pheby is sent as punishment by a plantation owner's wife. The jail is one of the worst in Virginia and people who find themselves there are often sold or punished in the worst ways possible. Pheby gives birth to five of the Jailer's children thereby establishing herself as "Mistress of the Jail". The role is a contradiction and a way to survive since Pheby herself is half white, half African American. Heartbreaking, painful to read but so necessary in this time where racial tensions are so high. My heart broke, and I was cheering on those who made it to freedom in the Northeast. I felt so many emotions in this one!"— From Kris' Staff Picks
From the New York Times bestselling author of House of Eve—a 2023 Reese’s Book Club Pick!
*A Best Book of the Year by NPR and Christian Science Monitor*
Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, #1 bestselling author of Before We Were Yours) 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 Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.
She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.
About the Author
Sadeqa Johnson is the award-winning author of four novels, including Yellow Wife. Her accolades include the National Book Club Award, the Phillis Wheatley Book Award, and the USA Best Book Award for Best Fiction. She is a Kimbilio Fellow, former board member of the James River Writers, and a Tall Poppy Writer. Originally from Philadelphia, she currently lives near Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and three children. To learn more, visit SadeqaJohnson.net.
“A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.”--Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends.
"Seldom do I get to enjoy a novel so wholly engrossing, so exquisitely researched, so timely. Sadeqa Johnson has brought a fresh telling to a story we think we already know, making it beautifully relatable and human. Riveting and suspenseful, I highly recommend this novel."--Kathleen Grissom New York Times Bestselling author of Glory Over Everything and The Kitchen House
"Johnson is unsparing in her depiction of the physical, psychological, and spiritual damages wrought by slavery and realistic in her portrayal of the heroism of Pheby and others in resisting it — they cannot change the world, but they do what they can, and sometimes that’s extraordinary... [an] ultimately moving story anchored by a complex narrator." --Kirkus, Starred Review
"This well-researched and intensely moving [novel]...is perfect for fans of historical fiction with strong female characters such as The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom and Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Book clubs looking for #OwnVoices authors will be powerfully impressed by this story of a lesser-known aspect of the history of slavery in the American South." --Library Journal, Starred Review
"A challenging read but beautifully told... Yellow Wife doesn't pull any punches in telling its story about this painful period in American history. However, with a central character who is more than up to the task, this thought-provoking, well-paced tale brims with heart and intelligence."--NPR
"Johnson achieves a powerful, unflinching account of determination in the face of oppression."--Publishers Weekly
"[A]n absorbing story. A deeply researched and truly transfixing narrative told with heart, soul and skill — one that will no doubt grip the reader as much as it did the author."--Toronto Star
"As Americans continue to deal with issues of race today, “Yellow Wife” is the perfect book to help the country see, in part, how it got here."--Christian Science Monitor