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Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family ‘owned’ her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her came the fear that I would lose her some day. This is our story...
So begins Lisbeth Wainwright’s compelling tale of coming-of-age in antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth’s childhood unfolds on the line between two very different worlds. Growing up under the tender care of Mattie, Lisbeth adopts her surrogate mother’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. In time, Lisbeth realizes she has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have, though she’s confined by the societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with her parents’ expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American slavery system. When Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naiveté crumble around her. Lisbeth realizes she must make a choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned from her beloved Mattie. This compelling historical novel is a richly evocative tale of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.
This is a book about a girl and her "mammy" - which is funny because the girl never thinks of it that way. Her mother calls it that. But Mattie is really Lisbeth's main caretaker, her mother. I don't care what they say, Mattie breastfed that girl and cared for her until she was around twelve.
Lisbeth loves Mattie with all her heart, and enjoys sharing her learning time with Mattie's son. But she lives a charmed life and doesn't fully grasp the ramifications of slavery until she catches her own fiance with a slave girl. She is then heart-sick. What to do?
This story broke my heart several times, but it's beautifully written. Maybe it didn't always end this way, but how many families had slaves raising their children? And to then tell yourself that you are doing the slaves a favor because they are simple minded and irresponsible like children? Then why are they running YOUR household and raising YOUR children???
It brings up many good points. The author points out that slavery is something that still happens today, although it's hidden from public view.
Aside from the politics of slavery, the story of Mattie and Lisbeth is irresistible. Lisbeth loves her so much, Mattie is the person she wants when she is hurt or scared. Mattie loves Lisbeth as well, but she has her own children and husband to worry about as well. You just don't know what is going to happen from one part of the story to the next.