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Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim-a Book Review

Updated on March 29, 2014

This book contains subject matter that has been exhaustively covered by thousands of authors and presented in books, stories, plays and essays in almost every conceivable form. But Ms. Ibrahimv has managed to delve into the painful, volatile heartrending issue of slavery with a new perspective that opens a door into an area not seen before. Slave or free, old or young, black or white does not change the root of a woman’s heart. This book brings forth the longings and surrenders of women who are mothers and how they unconditionally love the children brought forth from the womb or adopted by the heart.

The book opens with a scene the reader will not forget. Mattie is a slave and a new mother, breastfeeding her three month old son when she is called away to the Master’s house where the white owners gather for a new birth. There Mattie is called upon to wet nurse the master’s new infant granddaughter after a difficult delivery. “Well bred women do not nurse their babies” sneers the grandmother and Mattie is sent off with the newborn. She cleans blood and afterbirth from the child and looks at her with hatred. Miss Elizabeth has taken the milk destined for Mattie’s own child, Samuel. Yet, she has no recourse but to feed and care for the baby. She sings the old slave songs to her charge and longs to hold her own sweet son and Elizabeth grows up knowing many "improper" songs that comfort her when she is later lonely and afraid.

As time goes on, Mattie becomes accustomed to life in the big house. She has been given nice clothing to wear and even a nightgown. She has everything she could ask for except her own child to feed. Then one day Mattie discovers she can see Samuel from the bedroom window when the old slave “Poppy” carries him out to the slave who now feeds him her own breast milk. She is elated just to catch sight of his curly black hair and to know Samuel is still alive and well.

Three months go by and Mattie has fallen in love with her charge though she attempted to harden her heart against the infant. Mattie is finally allowed to visit her family in the slave quarters and leaves the baby, but feeds her first so she will not be called back to care for the hungry girl. Once in the joyful embrace of her friends and family she discovers Samuel, now six months old, prefers the wet nurse and her heart is broken. She works for a very long time before he will receive nourishment from her but he finally takes Mattie’s milk and her maternal longing is fulfilled at last.

Back at the big house, she is ordered to bring Miss Elizabeth to her visit in the parlor and the white child also rejects her own mother, Mrs. Ann. Mattie begins to see how a child bonds with the one who provides care and nurturing, responding to love over blood. Mrs. Ann feels great pain and disappointment but submits to her mother-in-law’s orders. Two women, who are polar opposites, are presented with the same challenges and sorrows.

Mattie lives for the precious moments when she can be with her husband Emmanuel, who lives on another plantation and her sweet boy who is growing up without her. Yet she adores Miss Elizabeth and is greatly distressed to learn Mrs. Ann is expecting another baby. This means she will be separated from the little girl and become wet nurse to the new baby. When that awful time arrives, Mattie and Miss Elizabeth are both devastated. Mattie is forced to listen while the child screams until her throat is too raw to make any more sound.

When Elizabeth falls ill and almost dies, Mrs. Ann locks the doors and secretly offers her own newly filled breast to the child. She is too weak to suckle so the desperate mother expresses milk drop by drop into the sick child’s mouth and feel like her mother for the first time ever. Yet she whimpers for her Mattie so Mrs. Ann gives up and allows her to be given back to the woman’s care. Mrs. Ann and Miss Elizabeth are never close again.

As the story progresses, Mattie, Miss Elizabeth, Samuel and Emmanuel are drawn into circumstance out of their control. Lives are lost and some relationships will be damaged beyond redemption as choices and consequences collide. Mattie never loses the desire to spend time with her son and devises ways to bring him into her reach. She finds a secluded location where Miss Elizabeth can study in privacy and the girl teaches the slave boy to read and write, innocently betraying her parents and breaking the law. It was illegal for slaves to read and write and the teacher could be imprisoned for such an offense, white or black..

Samuel is growing fast into a young man and Miss Elizabeth into a young lady. Mattie knows a friendship between the two would be fatal to her son who was been sent to the fields at five years old, carting water to the laboring slaves. She forces them apart and stresses to the girl that her just touching Samuel’s arm would result in his being violently killed.

Mattie and Elizabeth are forced to watch while Samuel is targeted for sport by a white boy and his friends but Elizabeth is smart and diverts their attention from the frightened slave. It is a eye opening moment for Elizabeth who sees how helpless slaves are over their own lives. But her father and mother teach her that without owners, the Negroes would be left without care; that they need overseers and owner to survive and she slips back into coddled blindness.

The children grow and so does Emmanuel’s desire for freedom. He is constantly at Mattie to run for Ohio where they can live as freemen but she wants to wait. Then Samuel is sold off the plantation and her anguish is unbearable. Samuel is finally allowed to visit and Mattie is appalled at the change in him. He is dejected, withdrawn and subjugated. When Samuel and Emmanuel disappear, Mattie is questioned despite her denial of knowledge. The interrogation leaves her scarred physically and mentally. Her owner gives permission for Mattie to be punished; the only prohibitions are that she is to have no lasting disabilities from the whipping and is not to be sexually assaulted. He didn't want her to return carrying a child because it would interfere with her work performance.

Mattie is filled with fear and knows her position as Elizabeth's nurse bought her no special treatment. She is viewed as property and not as a human being. Mattie now wants to run but finds she is unable to make the journey to freedom and to her husband and child. She is pregnant anyway by her husband Emmanuel. Will she gather courage enough to flee taking what little she has left to save or will she allow another child to grow up in the same inhuman conditions? The choice is hard and the consequences harder. To save herself and her children, Mattie must betray the white child that she loves and has nurtured from birth or choose a white child's welfare over the ones she gave birth to.

Meanwhile her love for Elizabeth gives her little succor because they have been separated and Mattie is sent to the fields to work. Elizabeth becomes ever more drawn into society and leaves her loyalty to Mattie behind with her childhood. Then a chance direction becomes a terrible experience for the young woman and she realizes just how helpless a slave really is in a world where one’s own flesh belongs to another. She, like Mattie, makes choices that forever alter her life.

As years pass by, both women think about the other constantly and yearn for the love they once knew. But their lives have taken paths that can never intersect again. Even if they reconnect, black women and white aristocracy could never mix or be friends. Or perhaps they can. God is love and He brings the lost home and places them in a family (Psalm 68:6).

This is a book that stands firm and proud on its considerable merits in a market glutted with superficial nonsense. While some passages are painful to read, the love between mother and child, woman and man, master and slave is inspiring and validating. Yellow Crocus is highly recommended for its integrity and I give it all the stars in the sky because 5 just are not enough.

A Song That Mattie Sang To Elizabeth

Did you know black slaves were wetnurses to white infants?

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Submit a Comment

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    leahlefler, the book is one I will remember forever. The relationship between the women is one we all can strive toward. It does not skirt the awful issue of slavery but makes the connection in spite of it, keeping true to what social strictures demanded. I think the author did a fabulous job with this book. Thank you so much for stopping by and letting me know you love the book also.

  • leahlefler profile image

    Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

    I loved this book. I managed to snag it when it was a free kindle book, and thought it was a very moving story. I love how the story comes full circle in the end. Slavery was truly horrible, and the measure of misery it wrought had no end.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Laila, that is wonderful. I am excited and very happy for you. I shall be one of the first to purchase the new book!

  • profile image

    Laila Ibrahim 6 years ago

    Hello again,

    I am just starting my next novel. I will let you know when it is done. Thanks for the encouragement. I need it!

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello Laila. I am SO thrilled you found my review of your book. This book made those two women real to me in a wonderful way and I wanted others to know about it. You are so nice to leave a comment here and the invitation for book clubs. Thank you and I look forward to your next book. WhooHoo

  • profile image

    Laila Ibrahim 6 years ago


    Oh my goodness. What an amazing review to run across. I am so glad to know that you enjoyed reading Yellow Crocus. It was a labor of love for me to write Mattie and Lisbeth's story. Thanks for letting other people know about it.

    I love speaking with book clubs so if any of your readers enjoy the book and want to set that up they can get in touch.

    Best wishes,


  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hi lyricwriter. Thank you very much. I have only recently began doing book reviews and know I have lots to learn. It was hard not to tell too much with this one. I really appreciate your input.

  • thelyricwriter profile image

    Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

    Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. I can't believe how mean people use to be during these times. It is quite sad to be honest. Love the trivia question. I didn't know. You did a great job writing the review Hyp.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hi there always. It is very hard to read about and to even comprehend how cruel people can be to others. I could not look at anyone and not be moved by compassion and love. This book does get hard to read sometimes because the author does not sugarcoat the terrible things. She does bring forth a new understanding though that hearts can love in all circumstances. It is a wonderful book.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

    Your review of this book is so interesting. I must read it, and i will. It makes me physically sick when i hear of the treatment rendered to the slaves. I think what bothers me the most is the fact the good white christian folks thought it was ok to treat another human being in that manner. I am sure they never missed going to church every time the doors were opened..What hypocrites!! Thank you Hyphen...

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

    Super fine Hyph, shoulda known you would. I feel you would do more than well to write something like it yourself. Guranteed standing room only at the bookstores if you did.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hi Suzette. I believe there are many issue concerning that awful time that we still remain hidden. In the bright light of day, they must teach a lesson. This book does that very well.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hi mckbirdbks. I appreciate that feedback. I was concerned that I was giving too much detail.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello skye. It is so nice to see you. Yes, that scene was very emotional and difficult to read.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hi Mary. I love to read so much that I sneak it in whenever I can and I stay up late at night. lol I do hope you read the book. It is very well written and different.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Thank you Eiddwen. I love to see your loving smile when I open comments.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hi Alastar. I did leave a review on Amazon. This book deserves attention and feedback. You are right. Life in the big house for the white folks still had sorrows and challenges. I am glad you enjoyed the review.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello Vinaya. Thanks for checking out this book. I do believe you will enjoy it and be enlightened.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Good review Hyphen. I admire your persistence in reviewing books on the issue of slavery. Not many are interested in this subject today, but there are lessons to be learned that are relevant today. Keep up the good work!

  • mckbirdbks profile image

    mckbirdbks 6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

    Hello Hyphen. You provide an excellent review of the book. You can always tell when an author 'speaks' directly to you. Book reviews is yet another type of writing you do so well.

  • Sky9106 profile image

    Sky9106 6 years ago from A beautiful place on earth.

    I already know what usually come of your fingers, for us to enjoy, they have not stopped since.

    I especially liked when the lady I think it was , when Elizabeth fell sick Miss. Ann secretly offers. It simply sounds correct . What matters most!

    Beautiful Hyphen.


  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

    How in the world do you have time to read books? You are so active here in HP! I used to love to read, but now there is NO time. When I try to read at bedtime, I fall asleep. Is that a sign I'm getting old??? I've only done one book review, and was curious to see how you reviewed a book. Good make me want to read this book. I'll try....

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    Hi Hyph,

    A great hub which I really enjoyed. Another up up away here without a doubt.

    Take care and enjoy your day.


  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

    Goes to show that life in the Big House wasn't necessarily a walk in the park. Although it must be said that in general the life inside had its prestige and advantages over heavy field work. But no doubt the sad scenario at the beginning of Yellow Crocus and the bonding mix-ups later happened far too frequently in the plantation era. Hyph, this is an excellent review and can only agree that it appears to stand out from the usual parade of like fiction. Maybe you could write a new condensed thumbs way up for it on Amazon.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello Pollyanna. This one is very different. The perspective is material that I have not seen before and like you, I have read a lot. It is a work of fiction based on an idea the author had one day. I do hope you give it a try. Thanks for coming by today. It is good to see you.

  • Pollyannalana profile image

    Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

    I probably won't read the book, but only because I have read so many like this while I owned a bookshop. They are very good books usually being based on fact of course and for ones who have not read them I do recommend them for ones who have not read this type.

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

    I have not read this book, and the content looks interesting to me. Slavery was a human tragedy, and I love reading the novels set in a period. I will definitely read this book. Your review is intriguing.


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