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Readers' Comments for The Wedding Gift

In August, a select group of readers who participated in one of our special contests won copies of THE WEDDING GIFTMarlen Suyapa Bodden’s debut novel. Told through the alternating voices of Sarah, the young slave girl, and Theodora, the long-suffering wife of the cruel slave master, Cornelius Allen, Marlen Suyapa Bodden takes this story, based on an actual court case from 1800s Alabama, and imparts a fully fleshed-out portrait of a brutal time in our history --- a sort of "Upstairs Downstairs" of pre-Civil War America. When Sarah, who is Cornelius’ illegitimate daughter, is given as a wedding gift to her half-sister, Clarissa, her dreams of freedom only seem further away. Take a look at some of the readers' comments to give you more insight into this touching and heartbreaking story --- and make sure to watch out for SPOILERS!

THE WEDDING GIFT by Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a wonderful novel. It is so hard to imagine the hardships that the African Americans went through and survived in the 1800s. I truly loved the story. I work at two little libraries in a small town and requested copies of this novel be ordered for both libraries. They have been. They will go up on a special display of "Have I Got A Book For You." 

THE WEDDING GIFT by Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a book that will touch all your emotions. I expected a story about the relationship of two half-sisters. The relationships of all the characters are so entwined that you feel happy, then angry.  You can like a character for a few pages and then get really mad. You will laugh and cry. If you don't have an open view of the slavery issues in the north and the south, perhaps a little pre-reading would help you understand this book. Besides the double standards for white people and African American people, the story brings to light the double standards for men and women. With all the entanglements to deal with, prepare for a surprise ending. Marlen Suyapa Bodden wrote a great story. To tell more would be spoiler. Find a copy of this book and prepare to get involved.

When I started reading THE WEDDING GIFT, I thought, okay this is going to be similar to THE KITCHEN HOUSEWell, I was so wrong. This book is a wonderful story that shows the human spirit at its best. Sarah Campbell is "the gift" in more ways than one. Her dream to be free never leaves her. Her half sister, Clarissa, although white, doesn't have much choice in her life. Fact is, this story shows that the wives and daughters of the plantation owners were not "free" to make decisions about anything on their lives.

The ending is so surprising that I had to read it twice. I would give this book four stars.

This book captured my interest from page one, and I couldn't put it down! The times of slavery in full detail, from the perspective of slaves, owners and freedmen is riveting. I felt shame that our ancestors could have acted so narrow-mindedly and cruelly. Despite the varying levels of care the slaves received, they were still considered property after all. 

I would recommend this book to all who like historical fiction, drama and pathos, and just a great gripping good read.

I gave this book to my sister-in-law and am waiting to hear if she enjoyed it as much as I.

WOW! What a great book! I was really impressed. I enjoy reading historical fiction books. I liked how the author went back and forth between Sarah Campbell and Theodora Allen with the chapters of the book. That was different. We really got to know the characters of the book like Sarah, Theodora, Clarissa, Emmeline, Cornelius and Julius Cromwell, for example.

This book brought up some important issues like slavery and racism. I was rooting for Sarah and her family throughout the whole book. It even brought up issues like spousal abuse. This was a very emotional book.

I would highly recommend this book. I think it would be good for anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction, book clubs and schools, like maybe a history or English class.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It immediately grabbed my attention and I didn't want to put it down.

THE WEDDING GIFT is a very interesting tale told by two characters, a mulatto slave and a plantation's owner's wife, both abused by the master of the plantation in different ways. The two perspectives were very interesting and compelling. It was an engrossing story of that period in history, and it became very suspenseful, with a stunning surprise at the end.

What a great book!!! I was able to read the first chapter from a sponsored ad on Facebook, and wanted to continue reading! I was glad when I got the book --- it was exciting and mysterious and the ending really was a surprise. Can't wait for other books from Marlen Suyapa Bodden!

Shirley --- This comment contains SPOILERS.
I thought THE WEDDING GIFT was excellent reading. It caused me to think about what the slaves went through during the days of slavery. Although some had it so much better (Sarah, Emmeline and the other slaves of the Allen's plantation) than others of different plantations, where the owners did not treat their slaves almost like family members, but like “dirty slaves,” as they called them. The beatings, whippings and rape that occurred in so many places made me sick. Bessie and her family found this out when she was sold to a plantation that treated her so badly, as she was raped multiple times, and treated so much like dirt. How lucky she was to be able to return to Allen's place, and have her family there to love her.

Even though Mr. Allen treated his slaves so much better than others, it was clearly pointed out what a miserable and cruel person he could be. He demanded that Emmeline visit him each evening, and I can't imagine what it was like for her all those years, and for all the other slaves who had to accompany their masters in such a way. And the way he treated his wife, the name-calling, beatings, etc. I could ever live that way, the hurt and pain she felt, knowing that it wasn’t her he wanted at night, but her house maid.

When Clarissa's child was born, it was a horrible event for her and her mother. The cruelty her husband showed her, and then having her baby just taken away and not being able to hold him. Then being so sick, and her own father would not allow her medical help, because he didn’t want to tarnish his poor name and was afraid of what the other plantation owners and neighbors would think of him and his whore daughter. I just can't believe a father would be that way, even though, unfortunately, there is still such hatred in our world today.

I liked the book very much and it opened up my eyes to what life was really like back then, for the African American population. And then I think about the discrimination that still goes on today, and wonder if there ever will be total freedom for all kinds of people.

I would greatly recommend this book to my book club and others for a very good read, and great discussion when finished. I will also recommend it to friends and family members who love to read.

I just finished reading THE WEDDING GIFT and I thought it was wonderful. I think that mainly women would be interested in this book. I would tell them that it's a pre-Civil War novel and the story is told both by a woman slave (fathered by the plantation owner) and the plantation owner's wife. The characters are well developed, and it's easy to empathize with Sarah and Theodora as they yearned for freedom. The story is very powerful and there is also a little twist at the end. I would love to read more novels by this author.

I was very disappointed in this book.  Even as I read it, I was intrigued about hearing a story told from the point of view of the slave, as well as from the master. As I started it, I was very involved in the story. Unfortunately, it doesn't give any of the characters' thoughts until almost the end of the story. You never know how they feel or why they did things. It did have a surprise ending. It didn't seem like it was thought out at all. It just seemed like the author got a wild hair and put a little twist into things. I wouldn't recommend it. I thought the writing was more like a teen read. 

I give this book two and a half stars out of five.

THE WEDDING GIFT is set in Alabama, pre-Civil War, and has two points of view: that of Theodora Allen --- the wife of plantation owner, Cornelius, and Sarah Campbell --- daughter of Cornelius, and his slave. Both women are subjected to their master's cruelty and have no true rights of their own. One is a slave in her marriage, the other is a slave given to her half-sister, Clarissa, as a wedding gift.

The book itself can be draining and tedious, the dialogue forced, the situations a little hard to believe for the time and the ending rushed.

Sarah received an education with her half-sister Clarissa, thereby developing the closeness that they had. Appearances play a major part in the story: for Theodora, being the good wife; for Clarissa, hiding her true passions; for Sarah, hiding her desire for freedom. There is an underlying common factor in the women of that time, that no matter what their station, they were nothing but chattel.

The ending has a couple twists and I guess the reader might find it plausible, even if it felt hurried and was a letdown for me after such a detail-oriented story.