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Publisher's Summary

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times best-selling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, number-one best-selling author of Before We Were Yours) 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 18th 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.

©2021 Sadeqa Johnson. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What the critics say

NPR Best Book of 2021

Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2021

What listeners say about The Yellow Wife

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
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When trusting your gut goes right insteada lef

I read the description of this book & was so intrigued that I pre-ordered(PO) it immediately. I normally don’t PO anything but food so of course, I agonized every week leading up to its release: “why would you PO a book you know nothing about! You’ve never even heard of this author!” Well, thank God my gut made me too lazy to reverse the PO because I. Couldn’t. Stop. Listening. To. This. Story. It felt like I was listening to my own ancestor telling me about her life. As Robin Miles narrated, I was nervous when characters were nervous, hoping for them like real family. The fact that this story is merely inspired by true events, and not a real, whole *ss slave narrative, makes me say, “Ms Sadeqa, you deserve all the flowers!” This was my first time reading her work, and I can’t wait to experience more.

4 people found this helpful

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Truth in fiction - don’t miss it

This book is outstanding. It was difficult to listen to and impossible to put down. I
will miss this book, the narrator and the main character, Pheby. When books are this good, they leave me feeling hungover, and it will take time to get this story out of my so I can hear another. It’s astonishing to listen to, and the author’s note at the end will help you u d’état and why the story and the people in it feel so real. Cannot recommend it highly enough.

1 person found this helpful

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Harrowing but triumphant!

I read this in two days! I could not put it down/stop listening. Sure the content is heavy but history always is. Despite it being a fictional story, Johnson has pulled from factual people and their experiences. And what a strong female character. Please be warned that there are a lot of uncomfortable scenes of physical/sexual/emotional violence towards the characters regardless of gender or age.

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Insiteful and heart wrenching

A well written story that incorporates true to life details. A horrible era. Life and love and loss and survival. Very well written. The reader is wonderful in portraying all the characters. Based on true life of various people. Absolutely recommend this book.

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Horrors of Slavery

Pheby Delores Brown was sold and sent to a prison in Richmond, Virginia. There she was forced to become the concubine of the owner of the jail known as The Devil's Half-Acre. Ruben Lapier was a man who delighted in power and cruelty . It took everything for Pheby to survive and to protect her children. This book clearly portrays the evils of slavery. Even though the story was gruesome and difficult to stomach it was also hard to put down. Pheby was an extremely brave woman and I admired her courage. This book was based on the life of Mary Lumpkin who was the sex slave of the owner of Devil's Half-Acre in Richmond before The Civil War.

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  • Shenieque
  • 2021-01-17

An excellent book!!! Must read!!!

I loved every bit of this story and the adventure. I cried, smiled, laughed and celebrated throughout this entire book. I feel in love with with many of the characters and despised a few. I couldn’t put it down for a second. I need a part two :)

27 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth Early
  • 2021-01-19

A Real page turner

A compelling story about the cruelties of slavery. Told in the voice of “the yellow wife”, a mulatto concubine of a vicious slave trader, it tells intimate stories of the lives of field hands, house slaves, stable hands, and the masters they served. Primarily though, it chronicles the life of “the yellow wife” from childhood through maturity with such passion that one’s empathy for her travails is heart wrenching. Although this is a novel, it is based on the history of a notorious slave trader in Richmond, Va.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Shannon
  • 2021-01-13

A hard but Important Listen

A beautiful, if heartbreaking, story. This is such an important book as it goes a long way toward dispelling the Myths we have been fed about the kind-hearted slave owners of the American South. This really is historical fiction at its best. Both the author and narrator are incredibly talented.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Tyffany Rhodes
  • 2021-01-16

You will get trapped in the story.

This may be the most powerful story I've ever heard. There parts where I held my breath waiting to hear what happened next. It's sad and bitter sweet but it's a story I felt like I just had to hear.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn Hall
  • 2021-01-31

Our history...lest we forget!

This was a 4⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me...it evokes a visceral response in the horror of slavery and the shear determination to survive the miseries of circumstances...very reminiscent of 12 Years a Slave...you have no voice, no humanity, you are nothing more than furniture to be sold...based on a true story of the Lumpkin Jail in Richmond Virginia.

14 people found this helpful

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  • sha
  • 2021-01-21

Amazing

This book was exceptional. The story was simply heartbreaking at times but you had to keep reading. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't put it down. I went to bed thinking about it after reading the first half and the next night I had to finish the rest. It was absolutely an amazing and emotional story.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Nancy
  • 2021-01-18

Excellent❤🍷❤🍷🤓💞

All I can say is this book is goooood😁😁. I have always enjoyed books like this one. I felt like like Pheobe could have stepped in with the relationship between the Jailer and her son Morgan. I suppose back in that time she had to survive at any cost. I really liked the end. Overall the book was truly excellent. I truly recommend this book. 💘🍷🤓💞 please write more books like this one. 😊

9 people found this helpful

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  • disudds
  • 2021-06-30

Wow!

Wow! The Yellow Wife is quite a ride! From a privileged slave (as if that were even possible) to the mistress of the jail, the life of Phebe is equal parts love story and horror story. Johnson captures both the tenderness of a mother who fears for her children and the resolve of that same woman who does everything possible to protect them from their jailer father. At the same time, Johnson writes graphically and realistically about the punishments the slaves endured and the real outcomes (death, brain damage) of those atrocities. Where so many slave histories have been written about the plantations, the setting in the Napier Jail was different and illuminating.

I didn't realize until the writer's notes that the book was based on the real story of a slave named Mary who was married to a white jailer. Johnson's question about whether the marriage held any love or merely survival is a good one. In Rubin, the jailer character of The Yellow Wife, there is no question there could be only survival.

Johnson's writing is good and she creates a narrative that moves increasingly quickly as the story unfolds, leaving the reader in rapt anticipation of what will come next. The only reason I didn't read it within about a week is that I listened on audio and have less time to do that. Even so, it was well-read and the narrator really brought Phebe alive.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Gee Bee
  • 2021-03-31

Interesting Perspective

The perspective of a mixed race individual telling the story of slavery was one I hadn’t Imagined. There were few if any stories written from the late sixties or seventies history books (while I was in school) from the product of slave/master unions.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Nicola
  • 2021-01-18

Loved this !!

I really loved this story! Please write more like this! I finished in two days.

4 people found this helpful