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)
I purchased this book because I thought that this book would be similar to The Help by Katherine Stockett. Since I loved that book, I thought I would really enjoy this one. However, this book is not quite like The Help. One of the narrators also voiced a character in The Help, but that is where the similarity ends. This book is closer to Roots by Alex Hailey. It made me uncomfortable in a lot of places. It has the capability to make one think about all of the injustice that was forced upon the slaves and/or indentured servants of long ago, and it also infuriated me that people were treated so callously and so wrong all because of the idiotic way that cultures were back then.
I am glad that I purchased the book. I just wish that the author would have written something not so true to the times back then. There were several places in this book where I just cried for the characters Belle.. Livinia..Mama May, George, Jamie, and Will Stephens. There really wasn't a time where one could cheer for the people overcoming the horrible things that happened to them and/or their family or loved ones..The ending just didn't do it. It was a sad but very true novel, and it made my heart ache.
Tragic and sad, at times, but also moving and inspiring. The individuals who narrated were excellent and truly brought the story alive for me. Just an great story about survival and helplessness and power - highly recommend!
This is a great historically accurate book with insight of slavery and the ownership of them, tragedy and love. Although I found Lavina to be dense which hurt the story. If you liked “The Help”. You will certainly like this book.
I liked this book. I thought the narration was good, and I liked the characters. It was a nice listen while busy around the house, but I have read thousands of books, and listened to perhaps a hundred, and this one is probably not going to be one that "stays with me" forever.
It is difficult to write a review about this book as I am conflicted about whether to recommend it for other readers or not. While the characters are extremely well-developed, they're dead before you know it! The historical importance of the plight of slaves in the late 1700's to early 1800's is extremely relevant to the reader, but the sadness and hoplessness in this book was overwhelming for me.
Sad and predictable at times, but the characters were so compelling I could not wait to hear their fate. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little history and drama with their fiction.
This book is not charming; its tragic. The narration is good, with the exception of Lavinia whose accent goes from strong to non-existent throughout the story. The story is well-crafted though and interesting from a historical standpoint. I would recommend this book, although it isn't an easy listen.
This book is gripping and haunting, it draws you into the story and makes you feel as if you are really sitting next to the narrator telling her own story. It is excellent, and when its over, you will feel as if this was really a true story a part of our own history.
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