Goodreads ~ Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family ‘owned’ her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her came the fear that I would lose her some day. This is our story ...
So begins Lisbeth Wainwright’s compelling tale of coming-of-age in antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth’s childhood unfolds on the line between two very different worlds.
Growing up under the tender care of Mattie, Lisbeth adopts her surrogate mother’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. In time, Lisbeth realizes she has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have, though she’s confined by the societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with her parents’ expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American slavery system. When Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naïveté crumble around her. Lisbeth realizes she must make a choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned from her beloved Mattie.
This compelling historical novel is a richly evocative tale of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.
It's 1837 and Mattie is a slave. Mrs. Ann, the mistress of the big house, gives birth to Elizabeth and Mattie becomes her wet nurse because it would be inappropriate for Mrs. Ann to breastfeed her own child (Mrs. Ann is repulsed by the idea). Elizabeth (or Lisbeth as Mattie nicknames her) becomes Mattie's responsibility. Mattie gets to spend time with her own young son, Samuel, just once a week (and hopes he won't forget her) and she sees her husband, Emmanuel, who is a slave on another plantation, once a month.
This story follows the loving relationship between Mattie and Lisabeth, despite the differences in their stations, from the time Lisbeth was a baby to when she becomes an adult.
This is the debut book of this author and I enjoyed it. I liked the writing style and I think the author captured the essence of the times well ... it's hard to imagine that people were treated with such disregard as they were because of the colour of their skin. It is written in third person perspective with the focus on Mattie and Lisbeth, depending on what is going on.
I liked Mattie and Lisabeth. Mattie comes from a long generation of slaves and knows no other life. She doesn't question it when she has to leave her own son to nurse another woman's child ... that's just the way it was. Lisabeth's parents are white, rich and care about appearances. With Mattie taking care of her, Lisbeth sees the other side of the plantation as she gets to know the slaves as she visits them with Mattie.
I would recommend this book and look forward to reading others by this author.