Thursday, September 6, 2012

"The Kitchen House" By: Kathleen Grissom Review

The Kitchen House
"The Kitchen House"
By: Kathleen Grissom

Synopsis from Goodreads:
      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.
My Thoughts:
Whoa. I have just finished this book and so many wild and crazy things are going on in my head- Did I like it? I honestly don't know. It was good, kept you on the edge of your seat certainly, but I just don't know. “The Kitchen Hosue” is without a doubt an emotional roller coaster that will absolutely leave you wrung out when you have finished.
The story centers around two main characters, Lavinia and Belle. Lavinia begins the story as an 8 year old Irish immigrant the Captain brings home after her parents perish on the trip to America. Not knowing what to do with this small child, the Captain brings her to his plantation as an indentured servant and drops her off with his slaves to raise.
Belle is the Captain's half black 20-something daughter who works in the Kitchen House on the plantation. Her Mother had been the Captain's mistress before his marriage and she is often mistaken for being white. She is in love with a slave named Ben and everyone seems to love her, while also understanding the awkward position her father has placed her in.
When the Captain returns with this young white girl, he deposits Lavinia with Belle. Belle is resentful for having to take care of this young white girl, and Lavinia is absolutely terrified of her new life. While being different, these two women are in situations not of their choosing and must forge their own paths through life.
The story is a wild ride to say the least. The story covers many years and these two characters essentially grow up together. Lavinia grows up not understanding that she isn't like those around her, she's different yet the same. She's a servant, but not a black slave, and there is a huge divide there that is invisible to a small child and later a teen. It was an interesting contrast, yet confusing and frustrating for the reader at times.
Within the first few pages of the book, it is revealed Belle is the Captain's daughter by his mistress. Yet, he allows his white family, his wife, and even his other children, to think of Belle as his Mistress and not his daughter. Understandably this creates negative feelings and animosity. This seemed like an easy thing to clear up and is the cause for much of the conflict within the novel.
It's so hard to talk of this story and not reveal anything pivotal. There is heartbreak and loss, happiness and love, confusion, and ultimately a battle of loyalty and life. Belle and Lavinia were strong characters who you enjoyed reading about, and when something absolutely horrific happened (which it did frequently), I just kept asking what else could happen? What else terrible could happen, and of course, something else did.
Even after writing this, I am still torn in my feelings for this novel. While reading this, I put down the book several times as tears or incredulity overcame me. If you decide to read it, be prepared. Ultimately, “The Kitchen House” is a heartbreaking story of two women, at times helpless and confused, and yet fearless in approaching life at full force. This one will leave you mad, sad, angry, but finally full of hope for these characters and their futures.

Book Details
Publisher: Touchstone
Date of Publication: February 2, 2010
# of Pages: 369
ISBN: 978-1439153663


  1. Great review! It does sound like an emotional read.

  2. I love the cover--it draws me in immediately. Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Interesting. Sounds intense. Is that Oak Alley on the cover? Kinda looks like it.
    Thanks for stopping by my WoW.

  4. I adored this book as well, very powerful!

  5. This book is on my TBR shelf. I must get to it!