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 performance of the narrators was wonderful. The story is engrossing and moving, but very tragic. The characters are so enduring and the many struggles and atrocities they suffer were at times difficult to get through. An excellent listen, with strong characters and a well paced story- I could have wished for a happier ending, but the story ends as it was written throughout; with a strong bite of reality. I thoroughly enjoyed this audible book.
The beauty of the family bond that the Kitchen House family lovingly gave to Lavinia, despite the fact that she truly could never be on of them and the loyalty and love Lavinia returned to them.
The climax was moving- almost to the point of being overwhelming. Especially as I realized that we had reached the prologue and knew then, with goose bumps on my arms, that it was Mama Mae on that hill.
I felt a lot of frustration towards the characters- that if anyone could have been more direct and honest, so many of their troubles could have been avoided. If Lavinia had known from Belle and Mama Mae that Marshall had fathered Jamie, she never would have mistakenly trusted and later married him. Lavinia sometimes infuriated me with what Mama called her
A wonderful read (er- listen.) I could have strangled someone when Will was coming to Williams berg to court Lavinia, and gave up so easily, but I'll get over it. :)
This is the way I like to learn history: as collateral to an engrossing story. I am counting on the author's research in this. The lives of slaves in the 18th century South were depicted realistically, showing how the arbitrary and sometimes brutal decisions by their masters affected individuals and families. However, even kind, well-meaning masters provided an existence for their slaves that severely limited self-expression and growth. All this was wound around the life of an Irish orphan girl's experiences as an indentured servant and her eventual development into a free woman. Most of the characters were well developed, interesting, and very human. A few peripheral characters who were, however, essential to the story, were a little fuzzy. The readers were outstanding and made the story come to life. I enjoyed this book a lot AND feel that I learned a lot. What a deal!
I've just gotten hooked on audio book this last year & I love them. Now I can "read" a book & do other things like walk or hobbies.
I am picky so trust me when I tell you this is a great book that you will not be able to quit listening to. It is a great story, well written, very well performed and the historical part very informative. I loved it. You will love the narrators.
I am recommending this book to everyone I know. I got so involved in this book, that when I stopped for a time I felt like I was literally coming up for air. I was so involved in the story, for a few days after I finished it, it was about all I could think about.
Mama Mae--her love and wisdom was the heart of this story.
I read The Help, and it said they narrated it.
I think it would have to be Mama Mae. If anyone deserves a time away from her work, it's her.
Well written, well developed characters, great story. You really feel the emotions of the characters, and the dilemmas of living during slavery, for BOTH blacks and whites.
Belle and Mama Mae -they have such strength and were willing to sacrifice for others
Absolutely loved this book! Am going to recommend it for our book club because I want the chance to discuss the many issues and themes in the book. I especially enjoyed the extra from the author at the end explaining how the story presented itself to her. Having the different voices helped the story along and added to the emotion of the events.
Yes, very interesting
Soo many, when Lavinia was almost raped by the old man.
The entire performance by both readers.
The end, when Mamma died.
A must read, I was surprise to see this was Kathleen Grissom 1st book, I can't wait for her next book.
I felt for some of the characters but was a bit disappointed that she didn't go into more depth with them.
This book was beautifully written by a wonderful author and beautifully read by two amazing performers.
The prologue grabs you and then the book never lets you go. You feel like you are in the kitchen house, feeling the highs and lows of these women's lives. You can almost smell the smells.
If you are historical fiction lovers, than this is your kind of story.
This is the kind of book I would stay in my car to hear just one more chapter before going inside.
Courageous, Poignant, Loving
These ladies performed with great passion, inhabited their characters and brought them to vivid life.
Mamma May, with her wisdom and understanding of her
This book is beautiful in so many ways and desparately hopeless in others. The time may have dictated the circumstances, but the character of the people elevated them above their stations or plunged them into the depths of depravity. One cannot help but be enthralled by The Kitchen House.
Report Inappropriate Content