Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dark, Haunting Slavery Novel an Affecting Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It must be too early in the morning for writing plot summaries, because the words just aren't coming to me today.  Luckily, someone's already done the work for me.  Here's the polished, professionally-written back cover blurb for The Kitchen House:    
Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate slave daughter.  Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength of her new family.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master's opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son.  She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Kathleen Grissom's debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.    
Sounds intriguing, right?  It is.  As Lavinia's pulled into the warm embrace of Belle's family (though Belle, herself, remains standoffish), the reader comes to love them as well.  It's difficult not to become absorbed in their dramas and heartaches, of which there are, of course, many.  Lavinia's stunningly naive, sometimes too much so to be truly believable, but she's also a sympathetic character whose trials are many.  The reader feels for her as well, especially when she makes disastrous mistakes that will inevitably lead to only misery and pain.  If The Kitchen House sounds like a dark, haunting tale, that's because it is.  But it's also a rich, affecting story about the true meaning of family and the desperate lengths we will go to in order to protect those we love.  I read it in one sitting; it's that compelling.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of other stories about slavery and class/racial struggle, like The House Girl by Tara Conklin; The Cutting Season by Attica Locke; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; and others)

Grade:

 If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, sexual innuendo/content and other mature subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Kitchen House from Costco (I think) with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written and easy to get into. I was also pleased with the fact that even though we knew bad things were happening, the author never delved into graphic details, which I appreciated.
    I can't wait to read this with my book club.

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  2. I read this last year and really enjoyed it! Some parts were intense and not for sensitive folks, but if you can get past that, the story itself was wonderfully told. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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