“A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
Called "wholly engrossing" by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, 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 Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.
She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.
Johnson's rich latest (after And Then There Was Me) follows a mixed-race young woman, enslaved by her father, through a series of betrayals and abuses. Pheby Brown has been promised her emancipation at 18 by her father, Jacob Bell, the white owner of a plantation in Charles City, Va. Pheby chooses to remain at the Bell plantation because of Jacob's promise, even after her lover, Essex, escapes to the north in 1850, when she is 17. After a carriage accident kills Pheby's mother and injures Jacob, Pheby is at the mercy of Jacob's vindictive, mean-spirited wife, Delphina, who sells Pheby to jailer Rubin Lapier. At the jail, Pheby gives birth to Essex's son, Monroe, and afterwards Rubin coerces Pheby to sleep with him in exchange for keeping Monroe. As the years pass, Pheby bears four of Rubin's daughters. When Essex is captured and ends up at the jail in 1857, Pheby plots to get him and Monroe to freedom. While some scenes feel a bit melodramatic, the author brilliantly depicts Pheby's maternal drive to create a better life for all of her children despite a series of brutally difficult compromises. Despite the occasional creaky plot turns, Johnson achieves a powerful, unflinching account of determination in the face of oppression. \n
Heartbreaking but necessary!! L
Great book, excellent writer.
I Loved this wonderfully told story,of the life of hardship,that blossomed into a great new future. Best read I’ve had in a while.