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)
What I liked about this story is that it looked at slavery from a completely different angle. I have honestly never thought about the lives of indentured servants who came over to the US. This story wasn't just about slavery. It was about love, trust and what it means to be a family. It was a wonderful story that made me stop and think about how happy I am to have the life that I have and how grateful I am for my ancestors to have given so much of themselves to keep families intact.
I felt like I was there seeing everything as it was described first hand. Great narration and great story. I would love to see more by this author.
Their voices and characters were perfect for this story.
I had a hard time putting it down and focusing on other things that I had to do.
This was a wonderful story of a young white girl forced to work and live as a slave on a Southern plantation. She is basically raised by them, and comes to love them as her family. She is forced to make hard decisions that will effect all of the lives of those she cares most for. The narration and pacing was excellent.
This was a an entertaining read full of historical tidbits and cultural enlightenment. The readers were spectacular, finding a variety of voices, dialects and tones to portray the many hands on a plantation in the old pre-war South. The story had twists and turns - some predictable, some surprising. The heroines show a side of slave life that readers seldom see in print and their spunk and character gave the story its energy. It was a page turner, one I will certainly read again.
Quite a long way down the list.
Did not listen to the end.
The readers were very good, story content the downer.
This book deals with man's inhumanity to man. Surely the author could have included at least one uplifting sequence. Bad choice on my part.
Sara A :)
Loved this book. The narrators were awesome with the accents. Great story about the history of indentured servants and slavery. I thought it would be depressing but I found I couldn't stop listening!
I loved it's unpredictability.
Belle, I loved her voice.
Lovinia and Elly coming up on the smoldering house.
I wouldn't rename it.
It will be with me forever.
Have not read the print version so I cannot compare the two, as a truck driver I prefer to listen while I drive.
Lavinia was my favorite character mainly because the book seems to be centered around her more than the other characters in the story.
It is hard to pick one scene out of the book that I would call my favorite.
I don't think I would rename this book.
The author did a great job in writing this book and it was one of those that I had to keep listening to to see what would happen next. There is something in this story that just keeps you wanting more.
The story held me throughout, believeable, not overly romantic, very, very human. The author did an excellent job on creating the 'atmosphere' that made me able to picture the scenes.
We would rank it an 8 out 10..
The era and the whole slave experiences were a new awareness to how the black people werertreated and loved by their masters.
We enjoy the use of different readers during the book...it really helps to allow the mind to create a picture of the person speaking.
I love the name The Kitchen House! That is what drew me to it...human interest story with historical lesson included.
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