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)
While somewhat similar but not as good as "The Help" it was a good book and I enjoyed reading it..
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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."
Yes I would recommend this amazing audio book. Be prepared to be unable to stop listening. The story could be predictable but the way the author writes it it isn't. The suspense will carry you from page to page and you will be torn at the end, wanting to know how it ends but dreading it. The characters are well developed and become friends that you will want to keep around.
The animation is wonderful and their narration brings each of the characters to life in a special way. The first time I tried to listen to it I did not really get into it and was disappointed that I had purchased it. However the second time I was hooked from the very beginning. I knew that I would love Ms. lavinia's voice and her slight hint of an Irish accent.
I had not heard of this book but it was selected for me by Audible.com as a book I might like based on my reading preferences. i am extremely grateful that they did.
The kitchen House rates right up there with The Help, Saving Ceecee Honeycutt, and Secret Life of Bees.
What I loved best about this story...is that it felt as though I was listening to a mini series. Unbelievable story. There were times when I was on the edge of my seat!
I love Bahni Turpin in The Help...and she was even better in this book. She made her character of Belle...so real. And I love Orlagh Cassidy. First time I've heard her. She changes her voice so well.
Momma May was the most memorable character because of how nurturing she was and so accepting to Lavinia.
Such a good book. Very real.....at times, gutt wrenching to listen to...but you just can't stop..because if you do...you will miss how it ends. Not very many books that are good like that. :)
High, but the constant misfortune for the characters made for a frustrating but powerful story. I still enjoyed it very much.
The narraters were so talented. I have listed to Bahni Turpin a few times before, I adore her. Orlagh Cassidy also blew me away.
Yes. Great characters, wonderful story development, lots of twists.
Yes. It is at least as good.
I very much appreciated the author's comments at the end and her development of the story. I am sad to have it over!
The character development inside what certainly is a historically interesting tale was painfully shallow. While this story did portray the plight of the human situation, it did so with characters largely devoid of the human spirit. This is as certain a disservice to the slaves, women, amd masters of the era as iit is to the reader today.
Disappointed I finished a book that I could tell early on was not worth the
Very engrossing story with well developed characters. I had a difficult time going to bed at night because I wanted to keep listening. The narration is excellent and feels more like an audio production rather than being read a story. The subject matter can sometimes feel rather depressing, however, Grissom's writing is true with the time period. I highly recommend this novel.
Kathleen in FL
I have long been a student of slavery and the Civil War. My personal library overflows with slave narratives and historical books on slavery, as well as historical fiction of that sad era in American history.
Kathleen Grissom brings to life her story of a young indentured servant who is orphaned on a ship bringing her family from Ireland. The loving and intimate relationships between the seven year old child and the African slaves who care for her on the 1780's era Virginia plantation are wonderful. These are exactly the kind of deep friendships I have had with women of color throughout my life.
The novel reminds us of the evils of slavery, particularly the vulnerable position of young women at the hands of white masters and overseers. The painful separations of parents and children are recounted here, as well as the belief among many slaveholders that their "property" was sub-human and without feelings.
The narrators were right on target with both the Irish accent of the heroine, the speech of the slaves, and the accents of the Virginians in the big house. My family is from Virginia and I heard my grandfather as I listened to the narration. This book went far too quickly.
I just couldn't stop listening, very enjoyable.
The narration made me feel like I was in the story.
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