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 began as an interesting story slowly evolved into a predictable and trite novel. Young Lavinia showed promise to become a strong individual, but as the story matured, Lavinia became weaker and weaker until I lost all sympathy for her. The slaves are the strength of this story.
I absolutely loved this book. Ms. Grissom made each character come to life and I was hooked from the beginning. If you love historical based fiction you won't find a better book. I didn't want this book to end and I can't wait for another from this author.
I so enjoyed this story! I usually listen in the car to and from work, but this was one I had trouble leaving in the garage. I could not stop listening. The characters draw you in to their world, and I felt connected to them. I did not think it was sad. The story is told so well that you really do feel for these characters, their happiness and sadness. Naration was great, I will definitely listen again. Wish the author would write a sequel and continue this great story!
I loved the way the story was told through two points of veiw. The voices were pleasant and I loved the accents. This book is definately worth the listen- loved it!
Enjoyed having the two narrators and hearing Belle brought back memories of another great book..."The Help".
I just finished listening to this book this morning and it has left me perplexed about myself. I'm not sure why I read this book as it is full of sorrows and tribulations and only after everything has been distroyed, and seemingly all hope lost, do you find the small redeeming value hidden in the last 7 minutes of the book. Is that enough? Or did I just torture myself for days for nothing more then the awakening of my mind to the sickening reality of what slaves suffered by the hands of their masters?
I decided to read it in the first place because one reviewer said it was better then The Help, which I loved! To me, The Help balanced the pain and reality with hilarious and touching moments. The Kitchen House concentrated mostly on the dark, corrupt, and perverted. The plot captured my attention, and the book is well written as it draws you into love or hate each character. For now I remain undecided whether I should recommend this book for anything other then the great narration.
Read at your own risk.
Very interesting. Made you want to keep listening although it is definitely a sad and touching novel. Not a good choice if you are looking for something light-hearted. Excellent narration.
Was it believable? I dont know. Do I care? No! Great story, found novel quite interesting, I couldn't put it down.
Loved this book! After looking for a follow up to "The Help" I really enjoyed listening to this book and certainly have recommended it to my friends!
Educator, mother and avid reader!
I loved this book! I too found it sad, but as an African-American I was not surprised by the mentality, cruelty and realistic portrait the author painted of the institution of Slavery. The book Wench was a walk in the park compared to the hardships, atrocities and inhumane treatment this family faces and endures. I could NOT put it down! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to walk in the shoes of a slave for at least 12 hours and 55 minutes. I guarantee, you will never be the same.
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