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)
This was an extremely well writen book, it seemed realistic and imaginative, both necessary for a novel about the past. The only reason I give it only three stars, and this is a matter of preference, is that it was unremittingly depressing. Very few scenarios were joyful, calm or humorous, and those that were had an ominous future, which I felt even as they unfolded.
Because if you do, this book will not help you at all. There is not one uplifting thing to be found. Full of cliches and a predictable story line of a typical southern plantation. It makes you wonder how many bad things can happen to one group of people without going insane? Apparently this family can take much more than I ever could because it's one bad thing, over and over and over again. Just when you think something good is coming...guess what? Bam. Bad. The main character must have hit her head on a rock or something because she's as stupid as a rock. I found myself yelling out loud towards the end of the book. Skip it unless you want to be depressed.
This book is just plain better than even the best reviews. Hope to get my hands on more material this good. This reading made the book 3 D.
This story grabbed me from the beginning. Well researched,well written. I appreciated the depiction of the complexity of the lives of slaves at that time. This story allows for the inherent intelligence and wisdom of people who were not afforded the opportunity to become formally educated, as well as the conflicts within the white family members who were caught between the social mores and their true emotional reaction to the treatment of the slaves.
The voices of both readers were delightful to listen to.
I enjoyed this book and the narrator added tremendously to the experience! It was a good story that kept me engaged in the plot although I began talking to the characters about half-way into the book - wondering why they had to keep everything such a big secret! But I guess that is what keeps the story moving through to the end. This story provides a glimpse into one of America's not so great historical aspects....
The Kitchen House is a powerful novel that reminds the listener of the horrors of slavery in the south. The beauty, romance and glory of Gone with the Wind isn't realty. Kathleen Grissom does an excellent job of conveying that to the reader in her beautifully written account of life on a plantation as experienced by the slaves. Yes, it is a difficult listen at times but I found the courage of the workers in the Kitchen house to be uplifting and inspiring. I feel, The Kitchen House, is a must listen for all American's as it serves as a reminder of our past and offers an opportunity for each of us to count our blessings for the freedoms we embrace today thanks, in part, to those that suffered and shed blood on the rich soil of the old south.
This story provides the usual life on a southern plantation. The characters are strong and yes predictable but the family relationships provide a unique twist. This is a novel, which I would happily read again.
What a wonderful story told by two great narrators...really enjoyed that the story was told through the two different voices.
I loved this book! Narration is excellent. absolutely could not wait to get back to it and hear what happened to the characters next. This author gets you to know and care about each and every person in the story.
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