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)
The narration was superb. I recognized Bahni Turpin from The Help, and her rich voice depicted all the emotions this story held.
Mama Mae was so strong, so loving, so wise.
I listened to The Help; this story is just as well done. Orlagh Cassidy also does an outstanding job conveying the strength and gentleness of he character.
Belle; she is tough and funny and fierce!
The book was good and the narration was flawless. I don't know if it was the subject matter or the fact that so many bad things happened because of things left unsaid or undone for too long... but this book just left me feeling empty. Happiness was so close and yet so far away and in the end... things worked out but only after so much damage. Interesting story and very unique perspective of the white indentured servant. Heartwrenching tale of the life of the slaves and what they must have endured under good and bad circumstances. Worth the listen but don't expect to smile much.
I only compare it to the help as others did, but it was nothing like The Help. This so far is the best book I have gotten from audible. I can barely put it down. I am not one to enjoy endless description and this book does not have that, the story is excellent. I really recommend this one to those that enjoy stories about The South hundreds of years ago.
I'm a little torn on how I feel about this book. The story itself had me hooked because I couldn't wait to see what happened but at the same time, the story was very depressing! The epilogue explained how much research the author did to get the story right but even with historical accuracy, this story was a series of bad happenings to the lead characters. The performance of the narrators was good but I think I would have interpreted the way things were said a bit differently. The story was good enough to keep me listening but not good enough that I'll recommend a douse of negative/depressing thoughts to my friends.
I prefer stories that make me think positively about the world and that have at least semi-happy endings (and give me good dreams).
I listen to books all the time, When I am driving, cleaning, cooking or doing anything quiet. I am AUDOBSESSED!
This is the most emotionally powerful book I have ever read or listened to.
It truly brings the reality of slavery to the foreground. There is not one dull moment in this story. I cried, laughed and could do nothing but listen for 2 days.
I picked this book based on the reviews. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend. I liked hearing the story read from different points of view.
Spoken in two voices this story is at times joyful and at time heartbreaking, but tells the story of slavery and the colors lines that existed in the 18th century. Amazing storytelling and great insights into what life must have been like. I totally recommend this book.
It was too predictable.
The Lavinia reader was nauseating.
This story was really predictable. I agree with the reviewer who found Lavinia to be the densest of women, even by 18th century standards. The reader playing her started to wear on me. After listening, I'm surprised by the high reviews, I found it to be nothing special.
While somewhat similar but not as good as "The Help" it was a good book and I enjoyed reading it..
Say something about yourself!
Many reviewers have compared this book with "The Help" although the only thing it has in common with that wonderful book is the broad subject matter of indentured servitude/slavery. This book takes a more stark view of the characters' oppressed lives than does "The Help," but without the raw brutality and cruelty described in "Roots."
Throughout the story, one never feels that the protagonists will see a positive outcome as no part of their lives is under their own control — a condition pervasive during this time period for not only slaves but, to a lesser degree, women.
I felt the characters lacked depth: The "good guys" are so predictably good and the "bad guys" are so predictably bad that it became a little too easy to anticipate the next turn of the continually anxiety-ridden events.
Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin were excellent and breathe life into their characters. For me, they made the difference between a mediocre and a good listen.
While I would recommend this book for the great narration and a story that seems historically accurate and interesting, don't download it if you are expecting the light-handed and humorous approach with which oppression is treated in "The Help."
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.