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)
This is a melodramatic soap opera. The unending litany of tragic events just got to be too much.
I would not have stayed with the story except for these two fine narrators. Too bad they weren't given more realistic characters to read.
Probably not another by this arthor.
There are many other better and probably more accurate stories about this time in history.
For instance: Uncle Tom's Cabin
For Pete's sake, people, Lavinia had to be the thickest main character in any book I've ever read. It's a good thing I was listening to this book because I might have destroyed an actual book after a multitude of across-the-room hurlings. Lavinia becomes denser and denser as times moves on and her naivete/disingenuousness (the most kind way of putting it) is not to be believed. She is an absolute dunce, obviously not observing anything around her and becoming more and more helpless (if that's possible) with time, never learning from her own experiences or those of others. Why people continued to love and forgive her was beyond my comprehension.
This book could have been so much better by giving her just a bit of common sense and intelligence. The fact that the characters had the entire book to reveal the secret, but never did, was a source of frustration for me. I was hoping to enjoy this book, as it's a departure from my usual, but after the first half of the book, I became increasingly disgusted with the trajectory of the characters and the story.
The narration of the book--excellent.
BTW, I loved The Help, so it's not the genre with which I'm having a problem.
The characters come alive and evoke so many emotions it's almost as if they are real.
There were so many strong characters to identify with it would be very hard to choose one.
Lavinia would be my first choice.
There voices put so much character into already strong characters, it really added to an already amazing story.
It should not be renamed, it is perfect.
I really enjoyed The Kitchen House. It kept my interest all the way through even though I was sure where it was ultimately going. I won't say much more so as not to ruin the experience for anyone. But I will say that the Miss Grissom was bolder than I'd expected to wrap things up as she did. I also very much enjoyed the multiple narrators and their believable dialects. Bravo!
I did not read the printed version, but I prefer to listen to books like these. It really brings out the characters and emotion of the book.
I discovered the joy of audiobooks several years ago when I got a job which is a 45 min drive one way. It continued to keep me mostly sane.
I had never heard of this book and got it because it sounded interesting and because of the high rating on it. I'm glad that I did. The Kitchen House was an excellent story told by two women, who were both enslaved by others and themselves. It captured a period of time that has been written about comprehensively, but adds the dimension of a white indentured child who is raised by a black family.on a plantation
The narration is fantastic and both narrators deserve kudos but what struck me so forcibly about this story was how senseless the color barrier was and continues to be. Color and who was born to who dictated whether you were a slave or not, but in this story, many of the children born were fathered by white men, yet treated as slaves. It's hard to understand how they differentiated between these children, but they did and it makes no sense. I was also struck by the strength of the women in this tale. They made mistakes, some of them immense, but they handled what they were dealt and survived. Great read!
The writing was stellar, and the narrators perfectly casted. I typically wouldn't listen to the same book twice, but this is one I'd revisit just because the writing and narration were so good.
Mama-- she perfectly embodied the maternal love Lovinia was searching for, and was a great emblem of self-sacrifice.
For a reasonably sad story, the ending was somewhat of a reprief when justice was served.
The death of a principal character early on was tragic and upsetting; but really hooked me into the story. I appreciate how all the characters were fleshed out early on, which helped explain some of their actions (i.e. Marshall's abuse led to his anger led to Sally's demise led to Marshall's adult violence and alcoholism)
GREAT read! I listen to Audible books all the time on my commute and this was one of the better I've encountered. HIGHLY recommend!
This story is so well written, and the narration is so good. They make you feel your right there back in the time and on the Plantation inside everyone's life. This is such a sweet story and it left me wanting to listen to it again. It's as gripping as The Help but of course a very different time. You won't regret getting this one. LOVED IT!!
As others have said, there is much sadness in this book, which can hang over one for days. I couldn't stop listening, because I wanted to know what happened next, but it is very sad. Please don't let this fact make you miss this book, just do a little "mood" planning. Many have mentioned that this book is similar to The Help. I loved The Help and gave it five stars (rare for me). The Help showed how slavery still impacted 100-plus years after the timeline in this novel. The slaves made the best of their plight, and I felt their lives were much richer that the white owners they served. This was probably true for most slaves, as they were forced to have deeper connections with each other and with their faith. The slaves in this novel worked in the house/kitchen, which was the best luck of the draw. I can't imagine reading this if it were about the slaves in the fields. There's a part of me that can't wrap my head around the heartache they endured. I guess slavery comes in many forms, even today. All I can say is the slaves depicted in this novel were greater men and women than I've read about in a long time. This book won't soon be forgotten. Narration was excellent and added immensely to the story.
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