In The Kitchen House, author Kathleen Grissom weaves together the stories of two women: Lavinia, an Irish immigrant who, in 1791, arrives alone in America at 7-years-old and becomes an indentured servant on a Virginia tobacco plantation, and Belle, the slave who takes care of her. Narrators Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin (known for her work as Minny in The Help) alternate chapters, so listeners get the same story from two very different perspectives both with their own unique voice. Both Lavinia’s Irish accent and Belle’s southern dialect are smooth and authentic, and as both characters interact with the same group of people, the narrators keep the secondary voices consistent; they can manage the white-collar accent of a Philadelphia society girl, the dangerous undertones of a malicious slave owner, and the distinctive voices of each of the plantation’s slaves with equal confidence.
Grissom, who says she was inspired by her own modern-day renovation of a Virginia plantation, fills the novel with careful details, historical touches, and believable racial and political tensions. As Lavinia grows up, she finds herself caught between the slaves that raised her and the white world that waits for her and her tone, naïve and uncomprehending when she’s not allowed to sit with her black friends in church as a child, matures along with her. She sounds weary and resigned (though still optimistic) when, as an adult, she faces similar challenges. As Belle navigates complicated relationships with her lover, parents, and siblings, the reading remains convincing, emotional, and satisfying. And when a generation of closely-held secrets leads to danger and tragedy for both women, each is forced to choose where her loyalties lay. Blythe Copeland
When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.
Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.
©2010 Kathleen Grissom (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Forget Gone With the Wind. Belle and Lavinia, the heroines in this novel, will make Scarlett seem like a wimp in comparison….Together they narrate a story that grabs the reader and demands to be devoured. Wow.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“[Grissom’s] debut twists the conventions of the antebellum novel....Provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Kathleen Grissom peers into the plantation romance through the eyes of a white indentured servant inhabiting the limbo land between slavery and freedom, providing a tale that provokes new empathy for all working and longing in The Kitchen House.” (Alice Randall, author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell)
I have listened to over 250 audible books and this is the first book that has moved me to write a review. I agree with all the accolades this book has received. Yes, there are a few tough scenes but that is what happened during those years of slavery. I would love to see a sequel and a movie should be made. The only criticism I have is that it ended too soon. I wish the author would have extended the story just a little longer. I just finished it and am starting it again.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
This is a bleak book. While you wait for something, anything, good to happen to these people, it's one horrible injustice after another. It's engaging because of the narration. But, you end up feeling spent.
I ended this book with very mixed feelings - it was riveting enough to keep me from being productive around the house, it is masterfully narrated by great readers, and it certainly debunks the myths of the noble plantation master.
But there were several plot lines that stretched credulity - that a white child (indentured servant) would be so readily trusted throughout a slave community in an unstable household, that this child could grow up to tempt marriage offers from two members of the landed gentry of the area (a simple farmer, yes, but to see Virginians crossing class lines is hard to believe), and that this same individual could miss facts right under her nose and keep silent about other crucial facts for decades.
One reviewer described it as a Gothic novel - and that it is, combining alcoholism, pedophilia, laudunum addiction, sadism, lots of melodrama around lost children and parents, a Bronte-like house fire, and a heroine who maintains her purity of spirit throughout the perils that await her. You can almost envision her tied to railroad tracks.
And although the main protagonist certainly suffers from the dastardly deeds at the hands of her own Simon Legree, it is difficult as a listener to feel much compassion for her since what's happening to the slaves on this plantation is far worse and somewhat glossed over by the way the author keeps having them bounce back from being victimized by extreme brutality to resume their roles as sad-but-wise-and-loving house servants. The author waxes between fascinating and believable detail (field slaves stealing boards from the smokehouse to boil to get salt into their food) and hackneyed stereotypes of a mammy. I ended up giving Grissom credit for trying to be honest about slavery and forgave her the fall into stereotypes, but other readers might not.
This book was so good that when I finished it I started right over and the second time was even better. I caught so much that I missed the first time. The Narrators were excellent and easy to listen to. The biggest problem was I couldn't stop listening. I enjoyed this book as much or more than The Help and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
This book is perfect in every way. The narration is spot on, in tone and pace, a match to the depth of the plot. The character development was so expertly accomplished. I cared for each kind character and I truly despised the villains.
I felt that the characters were true to the times and am surprised that some of the reviewers expect the characters to behave as if they were living in this century.
I too loved the ending, it was perfect and am so very glad the author did not go for the obvious, well you know if you read the book. THANK YOU Ms.Grissom, we are ready for your next novel.
This is a great book and I could not stop listening but it is a sad story and at times I just wished something would go right rather than one disaster after another. I still recommend it highly and the narration was excellent, I immediately recognized Belle's voice from "The Help"
I was so happy to find this book as it reminded me of 'The Help.' Another book about slavery in the South but a twist not in 'The Help' which is a white endentured slave. Again a glimpse in how life was back then for all involved: white children with tutors, tutors with not so good intentions, ranch hands, the black families that worked with the white family and how the black families/slaves cared for their masters and also themselves. Gilimpses of unresolved anger and rage as well as the sweet glimpse of understanding another's pain. If you liked 'The Help' I believe you will like 'The Kitchen House'
Dont read this expecting a light or easy listen! It was one crisis after another, one tragedy after another... After awhile, you could predict what was going to happen. I am sure it was historically accurate and the writing was good. However, Lavinia, one of the main characters, had to be the densest woman ever- even by late 18th- early 19th century standards. I guess I wasn't expecting to listen to so much angst driving home in traffic after a bad day at work.
Yes! It's such a great story!
Momma Mae. Her inspired wisdom tendered with compassion warmth and strength is so embraceable. But...all the characters are unique. Good or bad, they're there with each facet clearly reflecting their well developed characters.
Rankin...so I could poison him.
Loved every minute of this book. Everyone should read this book. What's not to love! If I could give it 10 stars I would.
I don't think of myself as a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book was really great. I agree that if you liked "The Help," you will also enjoy this book. The only flaw I could see was that the last few chapters seemed very rushed, without the tremendous attention to detail and character development typical of the vast majority of the novel. I still give it a big thumbs up! Unlike some historical fiction, the characters were so well drawn out that it was easy to relate to them even when living in an entirely different time. You understood their motivations, their hopes and their dreams. I will listen to this book again, I am certain!
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