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 book had wonderful promise but became difficult to finish once I began to despise the protagonist. Why a slave family would stand by a white girl who brought them nothing but tragedy and misfortune is beyond me. Most frustratingly, Lavinia never grew as a character. I kept waiting for her to shed some of her naiveté, grow a pair, learn from past mistakes, gain some pluck and stop passively floating along.
Nope. She just stayed simple and sweet while repeating behaviors that held disasterous consequences for those she claimed to love. With friends (or family) like her, who needs enemies?
I really wanted to like this book, but found the story line and characters predictable and unremarkable. The central character, an Irish girl who ends up being raised by slaves on a tobacco plantation in post Revolutionary War south, is likeable, but lacks depth as a character. All the other characters are equally shallow and stereotypical. The plot is unsurprising as well.
However, if you're looking for good narration, Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin do a first class job and their voices were the only thing that kept me listening to the end.
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This book really draws you in, and the narrators are awesome. I highly recommend this book.
This book was superbly written and excellently narrated. My interest was kept the whole way through the story. The characters were believable, and the narrators each had a unique voice that was believable and consistent. I was particularly impressed with their abilities to switch between several different vernaculars and tones. I highly suggest purchasing this book.
A heart wrenching story. Life was hard and often sad in those days. I felt that the true meaning of family was portrayed beautifully and the narrators made the story come alive. I highly recommend it.
Just a great story. Excellent character development and I just couldn't wait to get back to them. I enjoy time period novels espeically about our dark history of slavery. The story drew me in and I was sorry when iit ended. Well worth the credit!
Fantastic, wonderful, heartbreaking, frustrating,there aren't enough adjectives to express how good this book was. I have listened to some exceptional audiobooks and this one is in the top two. The narrators truly brought this story to life. Like 'The Help' -- I couldn't stop listening. Tears streamed down my face for the last hour of the book as I stayed up until 1am listening (working with just 4 hours of sleep now because of it). I just couldn't stop. Do yourself a favor and listen. You won't regret it. Kathleen Grissom is a wonderful story teller and I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can find that she has written.
Dynamic and moving. The characters were believable and one could connect with them. Good history through the eyes of common people. I recommend.
This book is in my top 3 recommended audio books. It was like watching a movie in my mind - the characters were so real and brought to life through exellent narrations. The story is set in the late 1700's and progresses through the early 1800's. The story is told through the eyes of Lavinia and Belle (two different narrators)......the lives they lead, the differences between the lives of the slaves and owners, the shallowness and carlessness of the owners, the family love in the lives of the slaves, the results of secrets kept..... all brought to life. I didn't want the story to end and feel like 'friends' were ripped away from me. Hopefully the author Kathleen Grissom will write a sequel, showing more of Lavinia's life. GET THIS BOOK..... YOU'LL LOVE IT!!!!!!
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