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Wash
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Wash

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by Margaret Wrinkle
     
 

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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

Overview


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. 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 breeding sire. Wash, the first member of his family to be born into slavery, struggles to hold onto his only solace: the spirituality inherited from his shamanic mother. As he navigates the treacherous currents of his position, despair and disease lead him to a potent healer named Pallas. Their tender love unfolds against this turbulent backdrop while she inspires him to forge a new understanding of his heritage and his place in it. Once Richardson and Wash find themselves at a crossroads, all three lives are pushed to the brink.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Major Jackson
…a masterly literary work…I was moved by this story. Some would argue we are still living with the effects of slave breeding. Wrinkle's novel does not allow us to draw easy correlations but invites us to consider the painful inheritance and implications of such a horrendous moment in American history. Rather than disapproving opprobrium and diatribes, this debut occasions celebration. Haunting, tender and superbly measured, Wash is both redemptive and affirming.
Publishers Weekly
In this deeply researched, deeply felt debut novel, documentarian Wrinkle (broken/ground) aims a sure pen at a crucial moment following America’s War of Independence when the founding fathers yearned to free the country from the tyranny of slavery. At the center of this story stands Revolutionary War veteran Gen. James Richardson and his slave, Wash. Like Faulkner’s Thomas Sutpen of Mississippi, Richardson had depended on slaves to “carve out of nothing” a plantation on the Tennessee frontier. Though Richardson had wanted to leave slavery behind, he’s driven by greed and still involved with it, he says, “because I can’t stay out of it.” Imagining that the waves of settlers heading further west will need even more slaves, Richardson studs out Wash to neighboring plantations and fills the region with his visage—not the “R” branded to his cheek by his keepers, but Wash’s “dark eyes that let you fall right inside,” his “thick brows... like wings” and what the midwife who becomes Wash’s lover, Pallas, upon later meeting some of Wash’s biological children, calls, “hat dead on, straight ahead way he had.” Worried that another slave, jealous over whom Wash has been forced upon, might come at Pallas for revenge, Wash says he feels “nailed down in a way I want to pull up from. But it’d take too much skin so I don’t.” Undulating between a lyrical third-person narration and the meditative first-person accounts of Wash, Pallas, and a slowly cracking Richardson, the novel well evokes the tragedy not only of the lovers’ untenable positions, but also that of their master and his fragile country. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff & Associates. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

Winner of the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Named a Best Book of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal

"A masterly literary work . . . Wrinkle’s novel does not allow us to draw easy correlations but invites us to consider the painful inheritance and implications of such a horrendous moment in American history. Rather than disapproving opprobrium and diatribes, this debut occasions celebration. Haunting, tender and superbly measured, Wash is both redemptive and affirming." —Major Jackson, The New York Times Book Review

"[An] unflinching, stunningly imagined debut." —Vanity Fair

"A marvel. By turns grim and lyrical, heart-wrenching and hopeful." —People (four stars; a People Pick)

"A powerful novel." —O, the Oprah Magazine (one of "Ten Titles to Pick Up Now")

"The voices of the past can't speak for themselves and must rely on the artists of the future to honor them. It's a profound responsibility and one that Margaret Wrinkle meets in her brilliant novel Wash. She shows not only the courage to submerge herself in the Stygian world of plantation slavery but also the grace and sensitivity to bring that world to life . . . Narrative roles are given to Wash, fellow slaves and his succession of masters, creating a dense, hypnotic ensemble of voices similar to the effect achieved in Peter Matthiessen's momentous retelling of the life of a Florida sugar plantation owner, Shadow Country . . . It's from patriarchs like Wash as well as like Richardson, Ms. Wrinkle shows, that the U.S. was born." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"Amazing . . . Never has a fictionalized window into the relationship between slave and master opened onto such believable territory . . . Wash unfolds like a dreamy, impressionistic landscape . . . [A] luminous book." —Atlanta Journal Constitution

"A lyrical story of courageous human beings transcending the cruelty and degradation of their slave-holding society." —The Dallas Morning News

"The history of the South provides plenty of tense, complicated material. Even subjects we think we know well can often reveal new stories in the hands of a talented author. Margaret Wrinkle's debut novel Wash is one of those stories." —Jackson Free Press

"[A] profound debut novel that takes readers on a journey into a past that left an inevitable mark in America’s history . . . Wash is a powerfully haunting tale about the captor and captive. It offers a look at both through their own narrative form expressing their true feeling." —Birmingham Times

"Wash achieves something extraordinary: a full-fledged confrontation with one of the most difficult aspects of our nation’s history. . . . Wrinkle has given us an honest and important expression of hope . . . a firm foothold that leads in the direction of truth and reconciliation. We would do well to take this step." —The Post and Courier

"[Wrinkle] plumbs beyond the brutality and into the wisdom of the ages to compose an elegiac yet surprisingly uplifting portrait of the resilience of the human spirit. . . . Wash is a solemn and magnificent paean to the survival—even amid the most crushing, inhumane conditions—of the special and eternal essence within every soul." —Shelf Awareness

"In this deeply researched, deeply felt debut novel, documentarian Wrinkle aims a sure pen at a crucial moment following America’s War of Independence. . . . The novel well evokes the tragedy not only of [its] lovers’ untenable positions, but also that of their master and his fragile country." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Wrinkle bears witness to the inhumanity of slavery . . . A moving and heart-rending novel." —Kirkus Reviews

"Heart-rending . . . Wrinkle has written a remarkable first novel, one that will haunt readers with the questions it raises, and the disturbing glimpse it offers into an unfathomable world." —Booklist

"Wrinkle has spotlighted a crucial era in the American experience, writing with grace and intelligence." —New York Journal of Books

"Wrinkle masterfully takes us on a powerful journey through the darkest past and present of this country, boldly addressing the chasm of racial divide with the scalpel of a gruesome truth. Wash is the epitome of courage and determination to heal the central wound of this culture." —Malidoma Patrice Somé, author of The Healing Wisdom of Africa

"Wash is bold, unflinching, and when finished, certain to haunt the reader for a long, long time." —Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Cove

"Boldly conceived and brilliantly written, Margaret Wrinkle's Wash reveals the horrible human predation of slavery and its nest of nightmares. With a truthfulness even beyond Faulkner, Wrinkle makes her novelistic debut in a monumental work of unflinching imagination." —Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife, Four Spirits, Abundance, and Adam and Eve

"Margaret Wrinkle’s Wash is a marvelous window into the world of nineteenth century American slavery—a powerful fusion of knowledge and imagination." —Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising, Master of the Crossroads, and The Stone that the Builder Refused

"A significant and hugely troubling book." —Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy, Town Smokes, The Wrecking Yard, and Dogs of God

"This majestic, beautifully-written novel will both break your heart and make it wiser." —Charles Gaines, author of Stay Hungry, Pumping Iron, A Family Place, and The Next Valley Over

"This exquisite novel is a gift of healing. It exposes the dark and fearsome sin that stains our history, and confronts the guilt that lurks in our collective American soul. But in the genius of the telling we are led to the tenderness at the bone, the humanity at the core, and buoyed by joy." —Beverly Swerling, author of Bristol House

"A unique and powerful story, Wash tells a chapter of our past that we would rather look away from. Margaret Wrinkle makes sure that we cannot. Her whole life has led up to this book, and she writes it in a sure and captivating voice, augmented by her remarkable pictures." —Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row, Dreamland, and Paradise Alley

Kirkus Reviews
Wrinkle bears witness to the inhumanity of slavery in this chronicle of a Southern family in the early 19th century. Richardson, an American soldier captured during the Revolutionary War, comes out of that experience in debt and unwilling to resume his previous life, so after the war, he begins to acquire several slaves. Although he'd just been looking for males, one female, Mena, catches his eye, and he purchases her as well. She bears a son, Wash (or Washington), who grows up under Richardson's watchful eye. It becomes a shocking but natural progression for Richardson to analogize breeding farm animals to breeding slaves, for to Richardson both are simply valuable commodities. Because the worth of a female slave is enhanced when she has children, Wash becomes a "stud" slave. Amid this unimaginable dehumanization, Wash tries to hold on to the West African legacy he's inherited from his mother, and he takes up with Pallas, a healer who's also holding on to her African heritage. Wrinkle moves us effortlessly through narratives recounted by Pallas, Wash and Richardson, so we get three perspectives on the events. She also recounts much of the narrative through a more distancing third-person point of view, a perspective that helps put all three major characters in the same frame. It's a measure of the evil of the system of slavery that Richardson is accounted a "good" owner. As he reflects, "Even a fool knows that whipping is best avoided. Makes them harder to sell. But if it needs to be done, I'll do it myself." His stubbornness is matched by that of Wash himself, who manages to maintain and assert his dignity in an environment that systematically tries to deprive him of it. A moving and heart-rending novel.
Library Journal
Setting her first novel in the new state of Tennessee during the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War when no one knew how long—or even whether—slavery would continue, filmmaker Wrinkle (broken/ground), approaches historical fiction as a documentarian. She reveals fragments of the life stories of her black, white, and biracial main characters—all somehow wounded—who live either as slaves who may have grown up free or as slaveholders who deny any humanity in those they treat as property. Passages describing out-of-body experiences may not appeal to all, but mystical West African traditions permeate the lives of Washington "Wash" Pallas, Mena, and Rufus, strengthening them and making them spiritually richer than the white men who own their physical bodies, and who even lease Wash out as a stud to neighboring landholders. VERDICT Readers of Jonathan O'Dell's The Healing or Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Wench will be intrigued by this slowly building story of human beings learning to survive as slaves under ambivalent masters. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/12.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., MA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802120663
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/05/2013
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.50(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[An] unflinching, stunningly imagined debut." —Vanity Fair

"In this deeply researched, deeply felt debut novel, documentarian Wrinkle aims a sure pen at a crucial moment following America’s War of Independence. . . . The novel well evokes the tragedy not only of [its] lovers’ untenable positions, but also that of their master and his fragile country." —Publishers Weekly

"Heart-rending . . . Wrinkle has written a remarkable first novel, one that will haunt readers with the questions it raises, and the disturbing glimpse it offers into an unfathomable world." —Booklist

"Wrinkle bears witness to the inhumanity of slavery . . . A moving and heart-rending novel." —Kirkus Reviews

"Wrinkle masterfully takes us on a powerful journey through the darkest past and present of this country, boldly addressing the chasm of racial divide with the scalpel of a gruesome truth. Wash is the epitome of courage and determination to heal the central wound of this culture." —Malidoma Patrice Somé, author of The Healing Wisdom of Africa

"Wash is bold, unflinching, and when finished, certain to haunt the reader for a long, long time." —Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Cove

"Boldly conceived and brilliantly written, Margaret Wrinkle's Wash reveals the horrible human predation of slavery and its nest of nightmares. With a truthfulness even beyond Faulkner, Wrinkle makes her novelistic debut in a monumental work of unflinching imagination." —Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife, Four Spirits, Abundance, and Adam and Eve

"Margaret Wrinkle’s Wash is a marvelous window into the world of nineteenth century American slavery—a powerful fusion of knowledge and imagination." —Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising, Master of the Crossroads, and The Stone that the Builder Refused

"A significant and hugely troubling book." —Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy, Town Smokes, The Wrecking Yard, and Dogs of God

"This majestic, beautifully-written novel will both break your heart and make it wiser." —Charles Gaines, author of Stay Hungry, Pumping Iron, A Family Place, and The Next Valley Over

"This exquisite novel is a gift of healing. It exposes the dark and fearsome sin that stains our history, and confronts the guilt that lurks in our collective American soul. But in the genius of the telling we are led to the tenderness at the bone, the humanity at the core, and buoyed by joy." —Beverly Swerling, author of Bristol House

"A unique and powerful story, Wash tells a chapter of our past that we would rather look away from. Margaret Wrinkle makes sure that we cannot. Her whole life has led up to this book, and she writes it in a sure and captivating voice, augmented by her remarkable pictures." —Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row, Dreamland, and Paradise Alley

Meet the Author


Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Margaret Wrinkle is a writer, filmmaker, educator, and visual artist. Her award-winning documentary, broken\ground, about the racial divide in her historically conflicted hometown, was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and was a winner of the Council on Foundations Film Festival.

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