A story of rebellion and a testament to the human heart

by Lily Azerad-Goldman

The Wedding Gift is a powerful tale of bondage, slavery, cruelty and ultimately freedom. Ms. Bodden's storytelling abilities are effectively illustrated, as she transports her readers to an early 19th Century Alabama cotton plantation where slavery was considered to be the norm. Interwoven into her tale is the abolitionist movement that was in direct opposition to the preservation of slavery.

It is a story of rebellion and a testament to the human heart. One that is a deeply stirring yarn incorporating violence, tenderness and bravery that beckon to be narrated. The Wedding Gift deserves to be passed down from hand to hand, from one generation to the next.

Bodden imbues her characters with a reality that is uncanny. You suffer with the slaves and the women of the Allen clan as you read their very believable tale. It is a haunting and beautiful novel, an irresistible page- turner.

Ms. Bodden is a New York City attorney representing the poor, low-wage earners and immigrant workers. Many of them are severely underpaid, if paid at all. She draws on her knowledge of modern and historical slavery, human trafficking and human rights abuses to write The Wedding Gift, which is her debut novel.

The Wedding Gift unfolds through the alternating memories of Sarah and Theodora Allen that focuses on a torrid love triangle. Cornelius Allen, wealthy owner and master of a cotton plantation in Alabama is married to Theodora, who gives him three children, two boys and a girl, Clarissa.

Bodden portrays Cornelius Allen as the uncontested master of his universe, who is constantly physically abusing his wife and doing whatever suits his fancy. He is a heartless womanizer and slave owner, who thinks little of selling the slaves' children, while keeping them under an iron fist and is only concerned about the well being of his plantation's gains.

Moreover, he is an adulterer involved with the cooking slave Emmeline, who begets him a daughter, Sarah, a yellow skin slave. In addition, he sells Emmeline's eldest daughter Belle to another heartless plantation owner who rapes her. The rape scenes are quite revolting and probably are true to life when owners thought that they were invincible. Bodden has recreated the world of bondage with such realistic scenes that you cheer the ending!

As for Sarah, she becomes Clarissa's maid, who on the sly teaches herself to read and write, as she plans her escape from the plantation. Clarissa received Sarah as a wedding gift when she married a wealthy planter, twice her age.

When Clarissa gives birth to her first child, all hell breaks loose, and she is sent back to the Allen plantation with Sarah. However, Sarah, with the help of the underground abolitionist movement, runs away and severs herself from her loving family. Her escape keeps you breathless. As you nervously escape with Sarah, you can feel her hunger and coldness until the shocking end. Readers should be prepared for a few surprises. You will not be disappointed!

Bravo Ms. Bodden you have helped preserve the dignity and integrity of the slaves!