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 chose this book on the heels of listening to The Help. I was looking for more of that southern flavor and the insider's look at slaves and slave ownership. This book is often not pretty and you had an understanding that not only were the slaves abused, but the owners were often abused as well.
So many things come to mind when you listen. It makes you think about what would not be tolerated in today's world. The characters in the story are often victims of what others want, need and expect. Well worth the listen, though you will wish for a bit more at the end.
After listening to The Help on audio I was in search for another great listen. Then I found- The Kitchen House. I tentatively purchased this audiobook unsure what I was getting into.Consequently I fell in love with it! The characters and their story were so engulfing & interesting. I didn't want to stop listening when I pulled into my driveway or after my run. I became so attached to all the characters and the narrating was so wonderful as was Ms. Grissom's story. I highly recommend this audio, especially if you liked The Help.
Wow, so many great reviews but I have to disagree with most. Come on now, every day brought more doom and gloom. Really takes itself too seriously for my taste. Braver than Scarlet ? Not a chance, and absolutely no fun to read. I did finish it though.
I saw reviews that said this book is similiar to The Help. I must disagree as the Kitchen House is soo much more deeper and a totally different plot in this story versus The Help. Kitchen House went into the nitty-gitty about how slaves were treated but also the bond of the characters were so touching. I like the way the book toggled from Levania to Belle and I enjoyed the journey of the characters, my best character was Mama Mae (hated what happened to her). There was a lot of tragedy, loss, rape, etc. in this book) and The Help had NONE of that. I love The Help (book and movie) but this book has more substance.
This story is very fresh in its choice of viewpoint. It gives voice to individuals who might easily have been overlooked or stereotyped. Some of the people in power are miserable, while the powerless find true happiness, while remaining painfully, even catastrophically, vulnerable. Many interesting characters, both likeable and unlikeable, are developed fully over time, in all of their strength, weakness and human enigma. If you enjoy rich character development, this is the story for you. I must admit it made me cry quite a few times, so I'm glad I was alone when listening. Altogether a great book and well worth listening to in this lovely reading!
Native Californian, but lived in TX for 2.5 yrs where I joined a neighborhood book club and never looked back! I listen and read books! After 5 years of raving about audiobooks, I finally got my husband hooked!
I really thought I was going to love this book, and at first, I did. I couldn't wait to listen to it in the car. However, somewhere 1/2 way to 3/4 into the book, just as things were really changing for Lavinia, it felt rushed. Descriptions and character development was strong in the beginning, but became lackluster by the end. I cared a lot for Lavinia in the beginning, but found myself caring less as the story progressed. The Author took her time and care at the start, then rushed through the story. It was a good story, good concept, good read. But I couldn't shake the feeling of disappointment. It has nothing to do with the actual story ending. So I give it 3 1/2 starts.
If you want something utterly maudlin, something that violates the “show don’t tell” rule of character development, this is for you. I bought it because it is a crowd pleaser, and I enjoy many crowd pleasers in this category (like “The Help” or “Life of Pi” or “Water for Elephants”) but not when they are so unoriginal in style and plot. I don’t know whether or not to recommend it, because I don’t always find crowd pleasers so disappointing, but this surely didn't make the cut. To each his own.
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