Margaret Wrinkle’s luminous, affecting debut novel is the impassioned story of two men and a woman joined by slave breeding in early-nineteenth-century Tennessee. Written as an accusation, a revelation, and a prayer, Wash challenges contemporary assumptions as it transcends time, revealing anew this explosive shard of national history.
Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, responds to the pressures of debt and westward expansion by setting Washington, a young man he owns, to work as his breeding sire. As Wash gets drawn into a power struggle with Richardson, he fights to hold onto his West African spiritual legacy. Despair and disease lead him to a potent enslaved healer named Pallas. While their delicate love unfolds, she inspires Wash to forge a new understanding of his heritage and his place in it. As these three lives intertwine, the stories they tell allow them to find solace and mastery. By turns haunting, tender, and redemptive, this boundary-crossing novel carries the reader from the heart of whiteness into the center of ancestral African spirituality until these two contrasting ways of seeing shimmer together. Questioning differences of blood and belief, erasing the line between the living and dead, Wash offers new insights into current racial dilemmas.