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)
Thank goodness for audio books. I can cook, clean, and drive and still "read".
Absolutely. The story was haunting, the characters intoxicating - it begs to be read again and again.
All of it. Every moment was captivating. This is a book that I would just sit and listen to, because I had to know what was coming next.
I already answered this question above: YES!
An absolute must read.
Warm, Emotional, Suspenseful
I think this is a very unique take on this subject so I really can't compare it to others. The use of a white slave character amongst a group of black slaves makes for a very unique and thought provoking story and raises issues and circumstances that, to my knowledge, have not been dealt with in other books. Very emotional story.
My favorite scenes all involved Mama May's wisdom and strength whether she was nursing the lady of the house or making sure Lavenia knew that she would always be her's. Such a wonderful and warm character.
Absolutely! I couldn't wait to get back to it once I put it down.
The performance of this book was wonderful. Lavenia's accent was so soothing and the use of a second narator as Belle was very smart.
I listen on my commute home.
This was entertaining but formulaic and predictable. The story started out with a great premise and conflict, but the plot developed along very predictable lines. The author created some memorable and touching images, and the performances were strong, but the content was not of equal caliber.
Those who love historical fiction that reads like a soap opera.
I'm not sure.
The voice of Lavinia turned into a whine of circumstances that sounded like "Woe is me. It's all my fault." I just wanted it to stop. So do I blame the book or the voice? I'm not sure. Also sounded a bit like a puppet show as Lavinia's voice became the voice of all the other men in the story. The book was 95% Lavinia and 5% Belle. Wish it had been reversed. I LOVE the voice of Belle -- I wanted more of HER!!!!
It made me think back to THE HELP. How could THE HELP tell the story in a way that didn't sound like whining? I was uplifted by that book. This book made me wonder how many more bad things could happen, and when Will's wife would ultimately die in childbirth so Lavinia could finally get her man.
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Kitchen House". I listened to the audio version of this book in two days. I found myself at times when not listening wandering what was going on with the characters, Momma, Belle, Lavinia, Papa and the others.To me, this story wasn't just another book about slavery and how slaves were treated but it had an interesting twist. In the story there's a little frail Irish girl who is brought by the Captain to work and live with the slaves. In doing so she forms an unimaginable bond and attachment to them that transforms her as a child and changes the course of her life as an adult.
Finding out about 'Mama's' hanging
When they killed the overseer
It all moved me.
This book was wonderful from the first 15 minutes. Truly if I had the time I would of done nothing but listen... A great story and a great follow up to
Cassidy and Turpin were terrific... you really felt their feelings through out the story line.
Narration was well done and narrators voices easy to listen to
Loved that it was easy to distinguish between characters
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