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The Wedding Gift

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  4,440 ratings  ·  599 reviews
When wealthy plantation owner Cornelius Allen marries off his daughter Clarissa, he presents her with a wedding gift: a young slave woman called Sarah. It just so happens that Sarah is Allen's daughter as well, the product of a long-term sexual relationship with his slave Emmeline. When Clarissa's husband rejects her newborn son as illegitimate and sends Clarissa and Sarah ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published December 7th 2009 by BookSurge Publishing
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Gloria I think Mrs. Allen was happy to find the child but realized she herself could not take care of the child and therefore resigned herself to leave the…moreI think Mrs. Allen was happy to find the child but realized she herself could not take care of the child and therefore resigned herself to leave the child at the orphanage. Also, I think the pain of it all was just too much to bear. (less)
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Community Reviews

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I thought the plot and a few of the characters (in particular Clarissa, Miss Mary, and Theodora) were interesting in theory. However, I thought the writing seemed amateurish and very stiff. The dialogue wasn't natural at all. Often times, the dialogue was so thick and confusing it was difficult to remember who was talking. I also thought the ending seemed rushed unnecessarily. She focused in great detail on certain aspects of the plot which didn't matter much (like the exec
Katie Chambers
I love historical fiction novels as I truly believe all of us, regardless of what time period we walked the earth, are similar at the core. This was a great account of how women, both slave and non-slave, were manipulated and treated back in the day. While, I have been fortunate to live in a time period of equality, and I have, clearly, never been a slave, I can relate to the emotions a lot of the characters felt: revenge, sadness, a love for family, and the will to survive. The ending shocked m ...more
This book had a good plot and it was definitely a page turner. Why three stars you ask? I gave this book three stars because I felt the author had amazing ideas but there were too many to be compiled into 337 pages. Other things I also took issue with is the sequence of events. You are reading from Sara and Theodora's POVs but they are never directly in line with each other. For instance, Sara will give her perspective or recount of events... Then we also get Theodora's but her recount of events ...more
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Poignant, heartbreaking, and unfortunately true.

THE WEDDING GIFT is beautiful in the sense of how the story is told in the author's marvelous prose and flowing style, but ugly in the harshness, cruelty, and reality of the events.

The characters will pull at your heart strings as you follow Emmeline, Belle, Sarah, and Theodora Allen through their day. The plantation owner's wife, Theodora Allen, is held under his thumb and must obey all his commands and put up with his physical and verbal abuse.

Carol Brill
This is compelling, well-researched historical fiction that kept me turning pages, in spite of the brutal themes of slavery, oppressed women, sickening double standards, and cruelty. It was a solid 4 or better until the shocking revelation in the last few pages, which knocked it down to a 3 or 3.5 for me. The problem I had with this revelation is that after beautifully crafting and showing the bulk of this multi-layered, complex story, Ms. Bodden has one of the narrators "tell" her surprising se ...more
This book is now one of my all time favorite book in the books that go unnoticed category. I got this book for free on Kindle and it was everything I look for in a book. the suspense was great and when you are finally aware of the curveball the author throws she throws you another. I really didn't want to put this book down and wouldn't have if it wasn't for class! great for anyone who loves historical fiction.
Laura Thompson
This book is so bad it's hilarious. It's told almost completely in dialogue, which is annoying even when done by the best of authors. No one ever in the history of the world talks like anyone in this book. The ending actually made me laugh out loud. I shan't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that the "surprise twist" is indeed a surprise, because it very much appears as though it was was a complete afterthought. There is not one thing the preceding pages which makes the "surprise" make any ...more
Dana Stabenow
One of those books you read in one sitting with the hair slowly rising on the back of your neck. Slavery in the American South seldom has seemed so real or so horrific. Every awful story you've ever heard or read is right here, seen through the eyes of Sarah, the master's daughter by Emmeline, his slave mistress. I couldn't help but think of Sally Hemings, in durance vile to Thomas Jefferson for her whole life and forced to bear not one but eight of his children, all of them property and subject ...more
Luanne Ollivier
The Wedding Gift is Marlen Suyapa Bodden's debut novel.

Alabama. The Allen Plantation. 1840's. Sarah is born to her slave mother Emmeline. Three months later the plantation owner's wife gives birth to her daughter Clarissa. They have the same father. The two girls grow up on the same land, but live very different lives.

What I quite enjoyed was the two viewpoints Bodden used to tell her story - that of the slave Sarah and that of Theodora, the owner's wife. It was an interesting and thought prov
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, which is why I picked this book up. And plus, I liked the cover. So, I wish I would have liked this more. I liked it, I just wanted to love it.

The story was told from more than a few different points of view (and some of them weren't so different), so it became a little repetitive because everyone had to include the same details in their turn at the story. The author also used the same old tool to reveal new information. That got old early on. Whe
I rarely give a book five stars but I had to with this amazing gem. Bodden's characters are real. They laugh, cry and suffer and best of all, they embrace you in their warm brown arms and share their secrets with you.
I received this book free from Goodreads.
The Wedding Gift is the amazing first novel of lawyer Marlen Bodden. It follows the life of Sarah, a young slave girl living in Alabama, as she grows and blossoms into a woman. This book takes us inside the slave trade, both legal and illegal
Surprisingly good read as I hadn't heard much about this book, but love historical fiction. The twist at the end was a great surprise although, I was curious about certain things that had happened, but never fully disclosed (until the end). It was tough to read about slavery and the horrors they lived through. I can't imagine treating another human being in ways that words can never completely and thoroughly describe. The depths of cruelty are beyond anything I believe I could ever truly underst ...more
The plot has possibilities, but the writing is quite poor. So lacking in depth or credibility, the characters are almost caricatures. The sole redeeming quality seems to be the horrifying, blood curdling glimpse into the realities of slavery. The terrors and the dread, the subjugation and total loss of dignity are dutifully recorded as daily life unfolds. I thought I had an awareness, but this tale forces the reader to peer down into the pit. Also, one is made painfully aware of the restrictive ...more
THE WEDDING GIFT by Marlen Suyapa Bodden
I’m still not sure where or when the prologue was supposed to take place – perhaps it was a dream?
After some very stilted conversations and an inconsistent use of dialect, the story is interesting and holds your attention to the end. However, there are too many coincidences and the slaves are often well cared for (or allowed a lot of free time) by slave owners we are supposed to be appalled and repelled by. That is not to say slaves were not ill-treated an
Esther Bradley-detally
First time author Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society, the nation's oldest and largest law firm for the poor, in New York City. She drew on her knowledge of modern and historical slavery, human trafficking, and human-rights abuses to write "The Wedding Gift," her first novel.

It's a sit down, don't move type of good; powerful, true, and a fierce history not to be ignored. Themes include: slavery, racism, misogyny and violence, issues still very much in our present day

She wri
Anna Mcinroy
If you like historical novels, you will like this book. Warning: it has very graphic descriptions of all horrors of life in slavery. Though some things were skipped by the author (not sure if it was intentional). Overall the book felt like stating what happened in the past, but never really went too deep into emotional aspects of what was happening. Definately a page turner and fast read.
The fact that I listened to this story in audio-version made it all the more gripping. The narration by both Jenna Lamia and January LaVoy were simply astonishing.
This book is told by two main characters; Sarah Campbell, slave and lady's maid to the Allen Estate in Alabama, and Theodora Allen, mistress of the plantation. At the beginning the time-lines of their narrations don’t coincide – but as the story progresses, we can follow the events of their story in perfect chronology.
This is a deeply
Joyce Yee
It is difficult to believe that this book is Marlen's first book.
She tells the heart breaking story of the painful and outrageous costs to all Africans who were enslaved in the U.S. through the perspective of two women on a plantation in Alabama -

Sarah is the mulatto half sister of Clarissa Allen, and is raised to be Clarissa's maid. However, Sarah begins to learn that there is a lot going on with her own family that is kept secret - her mother talks with her one day, telling her that she "vis
Feb 21, 2014 Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Michelle by: Julie Valerie
THE WEDDING GIFT, a historical fiction, is a wonderfully crafted retelling of the dark side of our U.S. history – a time when people owned other human beings and often abused them worse than they mistreated animals. The story has been told before by many other authors, but never before THE WEDDING GIFT has anyone captured so vividly the despair the slaves, who had no control over their lives, must have felt. Ms. Bodden researched her topic well and told a compelling tale of Sarah Campbell, the s ...more
A story about slavery in the American South. Told in alternating points of view by Sarah, a young woman enslaved by the Allen family, and Theodora, Sarah's white stepmother (not that anyone would ever have used those terms...Theodora's husband had an ongoing nonconsensual relationship with Sarah's enslaved mother). Sarah ends up being the personal maid to her white half-sister who is the same age.

There are a lot of slave (and near-slave) stories out there written by white authors. I don't want t
Kathleen Kelly
The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a story about slavery in antebellum Alabama. Half sisters, Clarissa, daughter of plantation owner, and Sarah, light skinned house slave owned by Clarissa's father. Even though Sarah is a slave in the household, she and her mother are treated like family.Slaves were not to be educated, which was the norm for this period in American history but Sarah is very intelligent and easily picks up reading and writing when Clarissa is receiving her lessons. The t ...more
When prestigious plantation owner Cornelius Allen gives his daughter Clarissa’s hand in marriage, she takes with her a gift: Sarah—her slave and her half-sister. Raised by an educated mother, Clarissa is not a proper southern belle she appears to be with ambitions of loving who she chooses and Sarah equally hides behind the façade of being a docile house slave as she plots to escape. Both women bring these tumultuous secrets and desires with them to their new home, igniting events that spiral in ...more
African Americans on the Move Book Club
This was one of the best most well written books I've ever read. I walked through Sarah Campbell's life and was not the same after i finished this brilliant novel. Ms. Bodden has accounted the life of a plantation owners daughter that is forced to serve her own sister who is white. The novel is set in slavery days of course in 1852 where black people were kept as property and in this book you take a journey in depth as Sarah gets the courage to runaway which is the most courageous thought a blac ...more
Oct 14, 2013 Jodi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I wish I could give this book 3.5 stars. It's worth more than 3, but not quite 4. The story itself is really good. It touches on some pretty heavy themes. However, the writing really does fall short. The dialogue is a mixture of proper grammar and an attempt at dialect, which fails quite miserably. And the ending was far too abrupt. The ending was sudden, with no unraveling of the story line. And the themes that were introduced were never fully addressed in terms of character growth. The charact ...more
For a debut novel, this is a well-written historical fiction about slavery and bondage in pre-civil war America. A lot of the events in the story made me cringe or cover my mouth in shock. Even if inequality is still very much present in our modern times, our current situation is literally thousands of years better. Nothing should really be taken for granted.

Though the ending was a happy one, there were shockingly, unexpected revelations. I wish this book had more chapters. The author did not de
I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy, compelling read and I read it quickly over the course of just a few days. The book gives us a sometimes heartbreaking account of the role of women and slaves before thee Civil War - and it is clear that women and slaves are treated with equal contempt. Why only three stars? Like other readers, I felt as though the book at times was paced poorly. Pages were spent on less significant subplots and major plot points were glossed over. The book ends abruptl ...more
Based in the slave south, a wealthy plantation owner presents his daughter with a unique wedding gift -- Sarah, a slave, who just happens to also be the daughter of the plantation owner and one of his house slaves. Twists and turns throughout the relationships of the slaves and the slave owners, with an attempt by Sarah to "run", make for an interesting story. Unfortunately, the author's simplistic writing style, coupled with the fact that too many major story events unfold with such speed (some ...more
I enjoyed this book very much and found it hard to put down. The characters came alive with rich descriptions and such personal accounts. I liked that this book was based on a true court case from years ago. The book provides a great example of indomitable spirit and how it helped one woman survive slavery and her never ending wish to be free. Reads quickly.
One warning, there was a graphic description of a personal tragedy that was difficult to read, it made me squirm and stop reading for a few
Laura Martinez
I absolutely loved this story, I was totally surprised due it just being a random book I found.
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Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a lawyer at The Legal Aid Society in New York City. She has more than two decades' experience representing poor people and low-wage and immigrant workers, many of whom are severely underpaid, if paid at all.

She drew on her knowledge of modern and historical slavery, human trafficking, and human rights abuses to write The Wedding Gift, her first novel, which will be globall
More about Marlen Suyapa Bodden...

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