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)
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.
I got just over two hours into this 13-hour book before I gave up. The book has such an intriguing setup - an Irish girl arrives without parents in the US in the 18th century and is sent as a servant girl to live with the black slaves on a plantation. But the execution of the story is disappointing. The characters are one- or at best two-dimensional, saying things and behaving in ways that are more like cartoons than real people, though the book takes itself quite seriously. Plot turns are both predictable and often unbelievable, seeming manufactured by the author, rather than making sense. The author pays close attention to some details (like what food is prepared) but less to others (why is a 7 year old lost on a snowy day all day but doesn't need any warming up when she's found? How much time has gone by between scenes? What motivates the characters?). Both narrators here are excellent, but the book is a sad contrast to The Help, which shares one of the narrators.
I could not stop listening, I had to know what was going to happen! I spent alot of time in the south as a child and this book brought me right back!! The readers were fantastic! Even though I loved this story, the author's note at the end really put the frosting on the cake!! A must read!!!
Could not wait to listen to it each day it ended too quickly. Would like more by this author
I realize the slavery epoch was blight on American History??? However???
Is there any hope that during the slave era, someone was nice and kind? Were all the slave owners contemptible, malicious and cruel? : Stupid vapid women and malevolent Overseers? Did all the wives drink or get hooked on laudanum because their husband despoiled the slave women and fathered many of the black women???s children?
Well just once, I would like to read something a little more pleasant and have a successful conclusion during early America. Still the narration was excellent.
From beginning to end, this was a compelling tale of love, family, happiness and sadness, sacrifice and riches. A tale that follows the arrival of the little Irish girl in America to a plantation in VA, through her childhood and her arrival into womanhood, and all those around her who became her family and loved ones. The Author provides an explanation at the end of the book as to how she came to write this story, and this will make you shiver. Excellent story, flows well, involves the reader, the characters come alive. Makes you smile at times, and cry at others. The Narrators, Orlagh Cassidy, and Bahni Turpin do an absoultely superb job of bringing the characters to life. As a result, this is certainly one book that I recommend listenng to v.s. reading.
I thought The Help was the best audiobook I've heard; this runs a close second. You just have to hear the whole thing through; breaks and interruptions are painful.
Loved this content of the book and the reading was exceptionally good. I would highly recommend this book.
If you loved "the Help" you will love this one also. I was sorry when it was over. Sad but excellent.
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