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

Yellow Wife

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  3,969 ratings  ·  845 reviews
In the tradition of Wench and Twelve Years a Slave, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Brown was promised her freedom on her eighteenth birthday. But when her birthday finally comes around, instead of the idyllic life
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 12th 2021 by Simon Schuster
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 Yellow Wife, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,969 ratings  ·  845 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Yellow Wife
This is a Historical Fiction book. This book takes place in the South (Virginia, but some of the places talked about in the book is in North Carolina) during the time people had slaves. We follow young female slave called Pheby Delores Brown. I have to say this book was hard to read at times, but I really think everyone should read this book. It is a part of the Sothern past, and we cannot forget it. I feel the characters came to live in this book. I think this is the first book that was told in ...more
This story is inspired by the story of Mary Lumpkin and Lumpkin’s jail in Richmond, Virginia.

Bell Plantation, Charles City, Virginia, 1850. Pheby Delores Brown, after losing her mother and after broken promise of freedom, she is being sold to traders. At an auction, she is “rescued by gentleman’s kindness.” Rubin Lapier is the owner of the jail, where Pheby spent the night before the auction. And now is one of the workers at the jail sewing, mostly mending clothing. Her constant companion is “th
Whew this isn't an easy read, but it's a necessary read. I don't think I really even read the summary of this book before diving in and part of me wished I would have. It didn't take away from the importance of the novel, but this is one that you need to be mentally prepared for before diving in. CW: graphic depictions of slavery, death of a child (twice), repeated rape, mental/emotional/physical abuse, torturing of slaves (particularly in whippings), graphic depictions of imprisonment.

Yellow Wi
Terrie Robinson
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Recommended to Terrie by: Knox County Library System
"Yellow Wife" by Sadeqa Johnson is beautifully written African American Historical Fiction!

Pheby Delores Brown is born a slave on the Bell Plantations in Charles City, Virginia. Her mother the plantation's medicine woman, her father the plantation owner, Master Jacob.

Master Jacob and his sister, Miss Sally favors Pheby for her light skin and natural beauty. Miss Sally teaches her to read, play the piano and spends her days with Pheby. Master Jacob protects Pheby and promises her freedom at 18
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written historical fiction set mostly in Virginia 1850. This one touches on so many raw emotions, hate, resentment, fright, loss, family whether it be conventional or not. Well researched and fast moving storyline that tells such a deep emotional story of the slaves and being sold, separated from everything they ever knew and how loved ones are lost due to nobody simply caring. Pheby's story is one that will stay with you for a long time. If you liked the Kitchen House thi ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Dealing with the same Hell.

Just different devils.....

Sadeqa Johnson presents a solid, walking-over-broken-glass historical fiction novel centered on plantation life in Charles City, Virginia. To her well focused credit, Johnson took a nugget of an idea while walking the Richmond Slave Trail with her family and transformed it into an outstanding novel. There was indeed a jailer who lived on a half acre of land overseeing a prison where slaves were bought and sold. He lived with his mulatto wife a
Natalie ✩★ The Biblioholic ★✩
I'm finding it impossible to stop thinking about this book! Pheby's story has had a firm grip on my heart from its opening lines and it seems to have no intention of letting me go.

At seventeen, she was unprepared for what life had in store for her. Born a slave, she was raised to never believe herself to be one and by comparison, she was shown to be several steps above. When tragedy strikes, everything she knew, every bit of safety she ever felt, was suddenly ripped away and Pheby learned quick
Karren  Sandercock
Pheby Delores Brown lives with her mama in the slave quarters at Bell Plantation she’s an herb woman and spins cotton. Master Jacob promised Pheby her freedom on her eighteenth birthday, when he’s killed and his spiteful wife Missus Delphina sends her away with slave traders. Her mama also died from the wounds she sustained in the carriage accident that killed Master Jacob and she’s in a state of shock! The journey from the plantation to the slave jail at Devil’s Half-Acre is horrendous, when it ...more
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copies
My first 5 star read of 2021! Yellow Wife is beautifully written, absolutely heartbreaking and will stay with me for a very long time.

I was completely captivated by the first page and couldn't put this book down. Pheby Delores Brown, such a strong willed and truly incredible woman. The life she was promised on her 18th birthday, being freed from slavery was anything but now her life played out. When thrown into horrible circumstances she managed to stay strong and adapt to her environment. Thro
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that will literally stay with you forever. It was absolutely heartbreaking, extremely graphic and made me feel sick to my stomach, but I could not put it down. My heart was pounding throughout this entire book.

It is so hard to believe that this is a real part of our history. The brutal punishments that were inflicted on human beings just blows my mind. How was this endured? How could someone do these things? I can't even comprehend it. It was very hard to read but I b
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Sadeqa Johnson packes a serious punch in this book! The story of Pheby Delores Brown (aka the Yellow Wife) is complex, captivating, heartbreaking, and inspiring, all at the same time.

The story is like no other slavery story that I have read, and I have read many. One of my most memorable experiences was visiting the Whitney Plantation in New Orleans and purchasing several books which told of the heartbreaking stories of those once enslaved there; but even those didn't prepare me for the emotion
Jennifer Blankfein
With tears in my eyes I’m recommending everyone preorder a copy - pub date 1/12/2021 . Compelling story of a slave- love, sacrifice and horrific circumstances. Amplifies a piece of history that is unbearable. Full review to come on Book Nation by Jen.
Kerrin P
Mar 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson is the engrossing story of a mulatto slave named Pheby Delores Brown. Beginning in 1850 and going through 1857, Pheby bravely endures her life as a slave. Pheby’s mother was the plantation medicine woman who was impregnated by the owner, Master Jacob. At the beginning of her life, Pheby was pampered by Master Jacob’s sister, Miss Sally. Pheby, who had been promised her freedom at the age of 18, was educated and taught to play the piano. After Miss Sally dies, Master ...more
Laura • lauralovestoread
Wow. Days later and the story and characters are still with me. Absolutely beautiful writing and I’m just over here with a book hangover now.

Yellow Wife is a heartbreaking and emotional read, but also emits such power as Pheby Delores Brown comes to life from the first few pages.

Johnson has outdone herself with attention to detail and research that went into this book, and while reading a historical fiction based on a true story such as this can be difficult, there are also themes of love and fa
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
WHAT A WHIRLWIND. Like I’m so emotional right now. This book will make you angry, sad, a tiny bit hopeful, then throw you right back into this emotional cycle. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, then this better be on your TBR! Please excuse me while I go and get Sadeqa Johnson’s entire backlist
laura ☼
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews, 2021-reads, 5
5/5 stars

This is sincerely one of the best books I have read... EVER. Oh my god, PLEASE don't let this masterpiece fly under your radar.

They call this place the Devil's Half Acre. Now I knew the devil.

This is the story of Pheby Brown, who was born and raised on a plantation. She and her sweetheart, Essex, plan to have their freedom and spend their future together. However, when tragedy strikes Pheby is sold to the jailer of the infamous and brutal slave jail- the Devil's Half Acre.

Let me j
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer Blankfein
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Visit for Q & A with Sadeqa Johnson. With tears in my eyes, I’m recommending everyone read Yellow Wife, an engrossing, compelling, and beautifully written story. Pheby is a born into slavery on a Virginia plantation; the white man who fathered her was the master, and her slave mother is the medicine woman for the community. Often getting special treatment, Pheby is expecting to be freed when she turns eighteen; she is looking forward to getting an education, but thing ...more
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Gritty, haunting, and extremely moving!

Yellow Wife is a poignant, impactful tale that sweeps you away to Virginia during the mid-1850s and into the life of Pheby Delores Brown, a young woman of mixed race who struggles to survive a life of brutality and protect those she loves while confined within the walls of the Devil’s Half Acre prison and as the mistress of the jailer, Rubin Lapier.

The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are vulnerable, strong, and scarred. And the plot is an e
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, historical
Johnson has done her research, crafting a story around the infamous Lumpkin jail in Richmond, Virginia during the 1850s, Protagonist Pheby Delores Brown, is a slave by her birth, but is provided privileges by her white father (Master Jacob Bell) and his sister, Sally, who teaches Pheby to read, speak "properly," and even play the piano. Master Jacob promises Pheby her freedom when she turns 18, and to send her to Massachusetts to attend a girls' school. His wife, Delphina, has a different agenda ...more
Erika Robuck
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vivid and engrossing, THE YELLOW WIFE takes the reader on an emotional journey with Pheby, an enslaved woman in antebellum Virginia, whose will, conviction, and fortitude are tested in the horrific system in which she lives. From growing up on a plantation in Charles City, to being taken as a wife by a white jailer at the notorious Devil's Half Acre in Richmond, Pheby is forced to make choices and endure in impossible situations. But her strength, intellect, and great love for those in her care ...more
ʚϊɞ Shelley's ʚϊɞ Book Nook
I love Southern Historical Fiction. And this hauntingly beautiful and tragic novel did not disappoint. This is a story of great courage and love and made me feel all the feels. It is a remarkable story that was well written…The characters felt as though they were living alongside me telling me about their life and their journey.

Pheby and her story will be with me for a very long time as this book has characters that will touch your heart and fill it with pain and joy. Sadeqa Johnson knows how t
Kristin (Always With a Book)
Thank you Simon and Schuster Audio for the gifted copy.

This is a book that I know I will be not forgetting anytime soon. It's one of those that as difficult as it was to read, it's also the type that makes the most lasting impression and one that I will be raving about for some time to come.

This is such a powerful read and it also packs quite the emotional punch. It is heartbreaking and intense yet also one that is filled with hope. The characters come to life on the pages and are so well-develo
Kitama Jamaila
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Gnosis Book Club first read for the year.

A young, half-white enslaved woman must struggle with the most ghastly, dreadful and horrible choices as she endeavors to maintain and save what little family structure she has left. Talk about the strength of a woman!!

The story is told through the eyes of Pheby, who is a biracial girl born to a slave as a a other and a white Plantation owner.

In my opinion, "Yellow Wife" is undaunted in its imageries of the violence, cold-heartedness and family sepe
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Terrifying. Harrowing. Necessary. Sadeqa Johnson writes a story that will burn your soul and mind, a tale written in truth for readers.

1. The story grips you from the start and doesn't let go until well after reading. As mentioned before, the story's terrifying and harrowing, leaving its readers fearful at every page turn, unsure of anyone approaching as characters.
2. Well-researched. The story's inspired by an actual woman. I yearn to learn the woman's story and, with guidance, provide
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Well written engaging story about a larger than life woman making the best out of a horrible situation.
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is Historical Fiction set in the Confederate South during the 1850's right before the start of the Civil War. The story centers on Pheby (the MC) who was a slave and she also happened to be the Master's biological daughter.

I really liked this one because it didn't just cover the inhumanity and hardships the slaves had to suffer, but it also covered the topics of choice, will, sacrifice, trust, taking risks, and having hope. The main characters were vividly drawn. I also liked the relations
This was well written, engrossing and harrowing.
This is a fictionalized account of a real person and real institution.

This story is traumatic and upsetting to read. Well written and well handled but the subject matter itself is so unbelievably horrifying, I'm aware that she pulled back from all she could've included, still it was a lot.

Possible spoilers:
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am a sucker for historical fiction. I am also a sucker for well written historical fiction by authors of color.

This book was a sad, powerful book. Inspired/based on the true life of a woman who married a jailer to slaves, Yellow Wife is one of those books that I'm sure will make the round in some book clubs and will leave you thinking about it when finished.

I have never read anything by Sadeqa Johnson but she has a true talent for writing characters that feel real. I truly felt and mourned fo
The Walking Book Club
Having the opportunity to chat directly with authors makes me fall in love with their books even more. And that’s exactly what happened with Sadeqa Johnson’s book, The Yellow Wife.

The Yellow Wife is a masterful piece of historical fiction that was inspired by Sadequa’s family’s visit to the Richmond Slave Trail along the James River in Virginia. When I spoke with Sadeqa recently, she shared how a Mary Lumpkins trail marker kept calling her psyche back. I’m so glad she listened because the nove
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Lost Love Song
  • Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers
  • Grant Me the Carving of My Name: An anthology of short fiction inspired by King Richard III
  • Through the Fire: A Personal Memoir by Theresa Vandermeer
  • Renaissance: The Fall and Rise of a King
  • Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile (Kindred Spirits, #2)
  • Happy & You Know It
  • The Evening and the Morning
  • Invisible Girl
  • Peril at End House (Hercule Poirot, #8)
  • The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus
  • Golden Poppies (Freedman/Johnson, #3)
  • Plain Bad Heroines
  • The Kitchen House
  • More Than Words
  • The Lost Letter
  • Royal
See similar books…
Sadeqa Johnson is the Globe and Mail best-selling author of Yellow Wife, And Then There Was Me, Second House From the Corner and Love in a Carry-on Bag. Her accolades include being the recipient of the National Book Club Award, the Phillis Wheatley Award and the USA Best Book Award for best fiction. She is a Kimbilo Fellow, former board member of the James River Writers, and a Tall Poppy Writer. O ...more

Articles featuring this book

Care to travel to past times for some serious drama? Check out this season's biggest historical fiction novels and be transported to tales of...
88 likes · 24 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“kept my despair quiet, close to my heart.” 0 likes
“I would like to see her up close,” a large man called from the back. “Very well. Step down and follow the gentleman.” Matilda stepped off the platform with her dress still in her hand. She caught my eye before following the man into the side room. My heart sank. She had just lost a baby, reconnected with her husband, and was now being taken advantage of by a stranger, for no other reason than that it was his right, and she had none.” 0 likes
More quotes…