Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Wedding Gift” as Want to Read:
The Wedding Gift
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt

The Wedding Gift

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,761 ratings  ·  775 reviews
In 1852, when prestigious Alabama 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 the proper Southern belle she appears to be, with ambitions of loving whom she chooses. Sarah equally hides behind the façade of being a docile house ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published December 7th 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Wedding Gift, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,761 ratings  ·  775 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
**Potential Spoilers**
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
Laura T
Mar 03, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Dana Stabenow
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
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
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another good story of a slave girl and her half sister who is mistress of the plantation. It reminded me of "Slave and Sister" and also "The Invention Of Wings" both books I loved.
This book not only is about the horrible injustice of slavery, but also the mistreatment of women. I was shocked at the medical practice of bleeding a woman who is awful!
This is a talented author. I hope she writes more. If you like historical fiction, and enjoyed the other 2 books I compared this to,
Luanne Ollivier
Oct 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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
Gayle Fleming
May 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
How this book has a 3.83 rating is beyond me. It has to be one of the most badly written books I have ever read. Yes, the subject matter is compelling and maybe some have never read a book written in the voice of a slave, but good Lord, that is no reason to rate it higher than a 1 star for effort. If I finish it--and that's a big if, I will review it again.

I've decided I will finish this book and attend the book club at One More Page. But this is still one of the most badly written books I have
May 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
2 1/2 stars. This book had so much potential. The story was really good. The book easy to read. But. But. The writing left a lot to be desired. Way too much dialogue. And the characters all sounded the same, slaves, owners, everyone. The book was told from two points of view, a slave and her mistress, but the voices sounded exactly the same. Too much historical detail thrown in just because. Details didn't follow (no hair on one page, the next hair being braided- same person). And the character ...more
Esther Bradley-detally
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Once I started reading this historical fiction novel I just couldn't put it down. I normally real 3 or 4 books at a time but I couldn't stop thinking about this one so I gave up and just sat down and read through this to its finish. This is the story of a slave girl, Sarah, and her Mistress Clarissa. They both have a wild streak, Sarah wants to run, and Clarissa wants to love who she wants to love. They probably have these traits in common because slave Sarah and Mistress Clarissa are half siste ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, favorites
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
Tara Chevrestt
I'm not sure what to think of this one, really. I found it poorly written, but there were some great ideas here.

In a nutshell: You have a cruel plantation owner who fathers a daughter with a slave woman he pretty much demands sleep with him every night. He also has a daughter with his white wife. So the daughters grow up together, one the master, one the slave, one with fine dresses and one a pauper. You get the picture; it's been done before.

The story unfolds. One wants escape. One is forced to
Sep 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
I give it 2.5 stars. For the first quarter of this book, it read like a poorly written version of The Invention of Wings. I even had the same images of the characters and setting in my mind. This book was soooo contrived; things seemed to just fall into place and the characters were all so good at explaining every detail of what they were doing and thinking. It felt like the author took great pain to explain things so clearly that it was forced, and the voices were wrong. Every character seemed ...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
Leslie A.
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this story. It was very easy to follow and I loved the "twist" at the end. I thought that having two very different point of views made the story even more entertaining because then the reader can see how differently these two very different lives entwine to make one smashing read. The characters are well developed and I found it hard to put the book down once I picked it up. I highly recommend it.
Anna Mcinroy
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lyndsay Gates
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Some parts were slow and could have been omitted in order to develop the story more. I was a bit surprised by the ending! I wish there were more continuous flow between the two perspectives of Sara and Theodora. For example, I wish they picked up where each left off. Because ot didnt, this made it a bit hard to keep up with the story. Not bad, not great, hence the 3 stars.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, it had a good plot and the story was an interesting one. However, the downfall was undoubtedly the way in which it was written. It was more matter of fact rather than one which flows and draws you in emotionally and mentally:
Sep 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: black-authors
Here is a story about slavery with a satisfying, happy ending. While probably historically unlikely, it was wonderful to imagine. Ending aside, it's a pretty standard historical for the time period & subject.
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE an 'oh snap' moment.
One I saw coming, but one I didn't.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Similar book? 7 50 Jun 09, 2015 04:02AM  
American Historic...: Win The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden! 1 8 Nov 07, 2013 06:38AM  
Book Giveaways: Win The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden! 1 4 Nov 07, 2013 06:37AM  
Free Books, .99, ...: Win The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden! 1 7 Nov 07, 2013 06:36AM  
Book Haven: Win The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden! 1 3 Nov 07, 2013 06:35AM  
What Stayed With You? 1 33 Feb 26, 2012 01:50PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Undrawn
  • The Circle of Thirteen
  • Girl Mary
  • Secretariat Reborn
  • The Fall of Saints
  • The Tenth Witness (Henri Poincare Mystery, #2)
  • Thanksgiving
  • A Fatal Likeness (Charles Maddox #3)
  • The Glassblower's Daughter
  • Deadly Diamonds (Knight and Devlin #4)
  • Where They Bury You
  • Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League
  • The Reign of Mary Tudor
  • The End of Boys
  • The Secret of the Nightingale Palace
  • The Loved and the Lost (The Verona Trilogy #3)
  • Havisham
  • Beyond All Price
See similar books…
Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a lawyer at The Legal Aid Society in New York City - the nation's oldest law firm for the poor - and an anti-war activist. She drew on her knowledge of modern and historical human rights abuses to write ARROWS OF FIRE (2019), her second novel, and THE WEDDING GIFT, an international Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Marlen is a graduate of New York University School of Law and