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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  775 ratings  ·  180 reviews
In this luminous debut, Margaret Wrinkle takes us on an unforgettable journey across continents and through time, from the burgeoning American South to West Africa and deep into the ancestral stories that reside in the soul. Wash introduces a remarkable new voice in American literature.

In early 1800s Tennessee, two men find themselves locked in an intimate power struggle....more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Atlantic Monthly Press
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This novel is described as a "luminous debut," and as skeptical as I am, I took that with a grain of salt, but it sounded interesting anyway.Initially, my thought was that I don't want to read yet another depressing novel about life during slavery, but it wasn't long before it sucked me into the story. I've read several of this ilk of varying quality, but was not sure I was up for another one. I decided to give it a try because of the description and the wonderful cover (which I am assuming will...more
Diane Kistner
If I can fault this book for anything, it's that it could have been cut down some, and that's why I'm giving it four and not five stars. Sometimes Wrinkle just goes on too long, as if the reader won't get it if she doesn't; for example, the first eight of the last nine paragraphs in the Advanced Readers Copy of the book I was given to review could have been cut entirely and the ending would have been much stronger for it.

Still, the writing truly is "luminous": lyrical, deceptively simple, and at...more
Shiloh Saddler
I didn't know what I expected when I checked this book out from the library. It was just the new book in the buzz so I had to see what all the fuss was about. After finishing it, by sheer determination because it was a slog I still do not know why people think it is so great.

Set in the early 1800s on a plantation in Tennessee, Wash is fine negro slave who is used as a stud, being hired out to other farms just like a horse. Only this important part of his life was glossed over. I'm fine with the...more
Haley Whitehall
I saw that this novel was a People's Pick. It sounded like a great historical read. I often read about slavery and I thought this would give me a new and interesting perspective. Ms. Wrinkle had a great premise, interesting characters and she squandered it by horrible storytelling. The only people who might appreciate this book is historians.

While I enjoyed the historical descriptions they were often too much. The story was slow and dragged. I found myself skimming several pages waiting for some...more
Add this to the array of books that try to make us understand the true evils of slavery: Margaret Wrinkle shows us a world where it brutalizes both the slave and the slave-holder. This one is a challenging read in that it hops about from many different narrative points of view, and moves back and forth in time from 1797 to the late-1820's (you almost want to read it with a pencil in hand to keep track of what's happening when).

When it opens in 1823 General Richardson (a military veteran of both...more
Jaime Boler

Two singular individuals, Richardson and Wash, bookend Margaret Wrinkle’s wisely assured debut, Wash. Wrinkle, an Alabama native, uses Richardson and Wash to explore the inherent contradictions of slavery and freedom. Although Richardson is white and Wash is black, the two men are both bound: Richardson by convention and Wash by the color of his skin. Wash may be fiction, but Wrinkle writes this tale so credibly and accurately that the Old Southwest, with all its mayhem and turbulence, comes al...more
What a wonderful book. It's a book about life stories, told in thoughts and images, with no true villains, and no bold heroes, no clear-cut path to righteousness. It is a story of how America was built, its people and its wealth, from two very different perspectives.

A young man, born of a "saltwater" slave girl who was transported from Africa. An old man, who fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, losing almost everything, who still wants to do well in the world, and to do right. A...more
Lizzy Lessard
(I'm using the terms "negroes" and "white folk" because it's what the author uses in the book.)

Wash is both a fascinating and disturbing historical novel set after the Revolutionary War in Memphis, TN. This book challenges some of the stereotypes of slaveholders and slaves and paints a seemingly accurate picture of what these people could have been like. The book never does give a good answer as to why negroes were slaves and white folk were the owners.

My favorite character in the book is Richar...more
Steve Wilkerson
This short exposition cannot do it justice but if you are ready for a book that will stay in your mind and set it to work, this is the best I've read in years.

Set in pre-civil war times, this is the story of Wash, a slave, his master, mother, muse/lover and the world he lives in, part African from his mother's days and trip over then American South.

Under financial pressure his master, Richardson, puts him out to stud as he is a strong fine example of what slave owners want to buy and will produc...more
By: Margaret Wrinkle
Published By Atlantic Monthly Press
Age Recommended: Adult
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: 4
Book Blog For: GMTA

"Wash" by Margaret Wrinkle was a well written novel of 'personal stories of two people: Wash (slave) and Richardson's (Wash's owner).' Once I picked it up I wasn't able to put down because it was one was really very fascinating read about slavery from this point of view that kept me very interested. I found the characters very well developed and interesting. Th...more
Diane S.
I started this book and immediately fell in love with it. The times period, after the Revolutionary War and the issue of slaves along with America's hope to conquer the West was a time period of which my knowledge was very scanty. The love affair lasted throughout half the book and than slowly flitted away. Why? There is technically no plot, or rather the plot is Wash, who was born a slave and is used for stud purposes by his master Ricardson. I am not sure how I feel about a character as the pl...more
Rose Mary Achey
Wash is short for Washington, a slave in Tennessee who lived in the early 1800’s. Wash is owned by a man called Richardson.

“Sometimes Richardson will get to talking about his lines. Horses. Hounds. Negroes. All the lines he has made. Their fineness. Their lasting quality.”

Wash is used to breed. This is a book that will make you think long after you read the final page. While I am not qualified to determine great literature from everyday writing, my humble opinion is that this book will be somed...more
Upon reflection, I'm not sure why I did not give this book a 5. When I consider the number of times a character, a scene, a remembrance of the strength of this work has come to mind, I question the 4.
The main character, Washington, is the first born in his family to be enslaved. Counterpoint to him is his owner who has returned to his West Tennessee plantation as a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Wash is a product of his wise mother who holds the spirit and magic of her African home. Richar...more
Three and 3/4 stars.
Wow. Heavy. It made me miss college lit classes because this is exactly the kind of book I need to go to class and discuss in order to get all I can out of it.
We are taken back to 1820's Tennessee and the world of slavery. The two main characters are Richardson, a white 70-year-old two-time war vet, and Wash, his twenty-something negro hired out by Richardson to surrounding farms as a sire, much like a stud horse. In fact, Richardson does make many parallel references in talk...more
Cook Memorial Public Library
A 2013 staff fiction favorite recommended by Susie and Connie.

Susie's review: Oh my goodness. This was an incredible book. Wash is the name of a slave circa 1812-1830ish. He is saltwater, meaning he came over on the ocean (in his mother's womb actually) and was not born from a country born slave (meaning someone who was already enslaved in the U.S. when they were born).

His mother gives him many ways to cope with the hard hard life he is put to, using traditional African spirituality. Richardson...more
Judy Porter
This is a very unique way of portraying slavery in the South. It is told through the eyes of Washington, a male slave, a female slave and a slave owner. It is narrated in the third person, shifting points of view. At first it is a little confusing, moving back and forth from 1797 to the late 1820s. It is not easy reading and you have to think about what is in each character's head. That being said, it is the best character development I have read in a long time. You know each character very deep...more
This is primarily the story of two men trying to find themselves, both caught in situations they don't want to be in. Richardson, a reluctant slave-owner, and Washington, a slave. Neither really wants to know that much about the other's feelings, but Richardson is always striving to make himself understood. In the end, it seems that they both find their own inner peace, without actually outwardly making peace with the other. In that respect, the story is sad, but the intrepid spirit of both men...more
At the beginning, I thought, "Uh-oh, this is hard to access -- the characters, how they're connected, what's happening..." --Somewhere around the 10-15% point in the book, I started to feel less confused and more engaged. I'm glad I stuck with it.

What this book did for me was to remind me to see outside of my own timeframe whenever possible, to look beyond today's societal norms in an effort to see what's right/true, and not to let your own story choke you....it's ok to have your story and then...more
Towards the end of the book Richardson says "No one in any time to come would ever be able to see us clearly, so why even hope?" This book tries to bring slavery into a clearer light, through the eyes of the owners and the slaves.
The story line: After fighting in the Revolution, Richardson moves west hoping to leave the slave culture behind, but finds it impossible to build his new life without slaves. Soon he finds he needs more than plain slave labor can provide, and hires out Wash as a stud....more
Susan  Odetta
Amazing historical novel set in Tennessee during the 1820's. The author tells truths that require telling, and her characters, the story-tellers, are inhabited with emotional landscapes worthy of Isabel Allende's "Ines of My Soul". This novel should be required reading in every high-school/college class teaching American history from the Declaration of Independence through the Civil War. It is eye-opening. Reminds of me a quote attributed to Muriel Rukheiser: "What would happen if one woman told...more
Hal Brodsky
I struggled to read the first 20% of this book, and then gave up after contracting a severe case of metaphor overload. This book is full of early 19th century uneducated rural characters who think and talk like Ivy League Lit majors.

Unfortunately, that is what this book ended up being for me. It's a total wash. Started with a unique premise, but did not live up to my expectations.

The format was a WASH. I did not like the lack of chapters and the constant narration changes. They were confusing especially since the characters voices were not well developed. I would sometimes forget who was speaking, and that should never be an issue in a book about slavery.

The storyline was a WASH. There was no real plot, and even th...more
I loved this narrative! It took me a long time to read but mainly because the subject matter is so deep that I couldn't pick it up and read it unless I was ready to step into this obscure world of Wash. The author accomplishes the unlikely task of actually making the slave owner likable. Most likely, it is because we frequently view Richardson, the slave owner, through the eyes of the slave(s), and occasionally they take pity on Richardson. Nonetheless, this book, despite being fiction, gives th...more
Sheila DeChantal
When I read the synopsis of Wash I was thrilled with the story line. I had never thought of slaves breeding slaves (I don’t know why – I am sure now that it must have happened) but it felt to me both repulsive and brilliant on the landowners part. I mean that in no disrespect – but instead setting myself in the time period in which this story unfolds.

Wash is incredibly likeable. I pictures him as strong and quiet but knows how to hold his own and protect his own when he has too. Wash’s mother ta...more
Very good story about slavery. Learned a lot that I didn't know about its horrors and about American historty.

From Amazon:

In early 1800s Tennessee, two men find themselves locked in an intimate power struggle. Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, has spent his life fighting not only for his country but also for wealth and status. When the pressures of westward expansion and debt threaten to destroy everything he’s built, he sets Washington, a young man he owns, to work as his breedi...more
Anita Williams
A story from perspectives of both the slave owner Richardson and the slave Wash, this novel clearly describes and explains the relationship between races. The spiritual foundation of the "saltwater blacks" directly from Africa and the way they escaped the horrid times by "taking themselves away"....like meditation....is revealed. Wash's Mother Mena was bought by Richardson in Charleston....he saw deeply in to her eyes and soul...and she also in his, wanting a good man with depth to buy her.

She w...more
Early 1800s setting for this tale of Wash, a slave being sired out to neighboring farms so as to help his owner get out of debt. Richardson (the owner) keeps meticulous notes – this, plus the business of slavery and using human capital to get out of debt reminded me of Thomas Jefferson and I wonder if that’s where the author drew her inspiration. Though it was probably not uncommon. It’s amazing this concept of people as (very, very low cost) assets. Indeed Jefferson himself said they were the o...more
There were things that a really liked about this book and things that I did not like. It is a story of slavery, of humanity, and of healing. It is set in the early 19th century, mostly 1810s and 1820s. The author employs multiple narrators which allows the readers to see multiple perspectives of events, but it also confusing at times. I found that I needed to flip back a page to remember who was talking. The story also jumps around in time and I found that confusing. Wash (short for Washington)...more
A moving novel told in the voices of three people about slavery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Wash, short tor Washington, is a child when his mother Mena is bought by Richardson, a plantation owner from Tennessee. Wash is an intelligent child and both mother and son are good looking. Richardson seems partial to them. The demands of the Western movement and the revolution means the need for more slaves and the end result is breeding them. Wash becomes a breeder of slaves as way to ma...more

Its 1824 and Memphis, Tennessee is the edge of the “civilized” world. It’s also, a friend pointed out, like its namesake in Egypt, being built by slaves.

The story jumps around in time, showing characters grow and age and the many interactions and connections of a whole web of characters spanning half the globe. Tenses and point-of-views shift and change rapidly in a dreamy, hyperrealism style, making it possible to look at the blinding glare slavery.

Slavery damages every single character in the...more
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African-American ...: August Book Discussion; Wash 11 18 Aug 27, 2013 12:44PM  
general discussion 1 17 Mar 20, 2013 02:58PM  
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Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Margaret Wrinkle is a writer, filmmaker, educator, and visual artist. Her award-winning documentary feature, broken\ground, explores contemporary race relations in her historically conflicted hometown. broken\ground was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and won the Council on Foundations’ Film Festival.

She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Yale Unive...more
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“She wishes she had looked more closely at every bit of her world when she was growing up so she could give more of it to Wash but it had been wrapped so close around her, she had no idea she would ever be without it.” 5 likes
“...even when your mind wanders, it's going someplace, and all that travelling adds up...” 5 likes
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