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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
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The Kitchen House (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Kathleen Grissom

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,7131254,149 (4.02)118
Member:Milehighlibrarian
Title:The Kitchen House
Authors:Kathleen Grissom
Info:New York : Touchstone Books, 2010.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:historical fiction, plantation life, 19th century Virginia

Work details

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010)

  1. 50
    The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Blogletter)
    Blogletter: Zowel Het Keukenhuis door Kathleen Grissom als Een keukenmeidenroman door Kathryn Stocket gaan over slavernij in Amerika.
  2. 30
    Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill (Anonymous user, vancouverdeb)
    Anonymous user: Both The Kitchen House and the Book of Negroes are about Black Slavery in the South. They are different, but provide an eye opening look at Black Slavery.
  3. 10
    Oonagh by Mary Tilberg (Iudita)
    Iudita: Historical fiction about indentured servants.
  4. 00
    The Ways of White Folks: Stories by Langston Hughes (varwenea)
  5. 00
    Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town by Jacqueline Guidry (varwenea)
  6. 00
    Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (varwenea)
  7. 00
    Cane River by Lalita Tademy (dara85)
  8. 00
    Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim (susiesharp)
    susiesharp: this is also a tale of the south and slavery but this one is not as depressing as The Kitchen House but has a similar feel.
  9. 00
    Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (dara85)
  10. 01
    The Long Song by Andrea Levy (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: Similar themes: black slaves, a young woman who works within the "White Master's" Plantation house.Slavery,Freedom from slavery; both wonderfully written. Divided loyalities, a fiesty female slave.
  11. 01
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker (varwenea)
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The year is 1791. A young, red-haired, white Irish girl who has become indentured to James Pyke. She has been brought to a plantation called Twin Oaks, in Virginia, and is handed to Belle and Mama Mae to learn how to help in the kitchen house. The young girls' name is Lavinia, although she can has repressed her memory of who she is or where she came from.

Belle is a black/white woman who helps Lavinia adjust to her surroundings and becomes very much like a mother to her. There are many other slaves who fill Lavinia's new life, some older and some her own age and younger.

Eventually, Lavinia recalls the loss of her parents, immigrants from Ireland, who passed away on the trip over to the United States, She also had a brother, Cardigan, who was indentured elsewhere.
Lavinia becomes a true member of the family at the kitchen house and at the plantation. She is very shy and aims to please all who come in to her life.

The Pykes, James (Cap'n) and Miss Martha, have two very beautiful blond children, Marshall & Sally. Lavinia does not have much interaction with them, as they are the children of the manse. There are occasions when they are allowed to interact, and Lavinia loves both of them.

A master is hired for Marshall Pyke, and things aren't right with how he is treating Marshall. The slaves can see this, but Miss Martha is often in a drug-induced state of mind, with her use of laudanum. This happens because her husband is often away on business in Philadelphia. Cap'n has hired a manager, Rankin, who takes care of the plantation. Rankin is very mean-spirited and extremely prejudice about the indentured individuals working at Twin Oaks.

Lavinia's life takes on many changes. As she is white, she is treated differently than the black slaves, especially at church.

This novel is based on real events researched by the author and there are some very happy events, but also some horrible events. I really like the way Kathleen Grissom switches the chapters between Belle and Lavinia. It gives you a true sense of both sides of plantation life at Twin Oaks. ( )
  JReynolds1959 | Jan 24, 2015 |
This novel had good potential with its setting and storyline, but somehow, falls short of being a really great novel. The beginning narrative that sets up the plot is quite good, but before long, the story starts to bog down and actually becomes dreary in its repetitiveness. The characters almost become trite in their descriptions and development. The bad guys are REALLY bad, and we are told over and over just how evil they are. The innocents and the others are also equally stereotypical. While the book is lengthy, it still lacks development of some of the main characters. The end seemed rushed, almost as though the author decided she had to wrap it up quickly. Worth reading? Yes. Memorable months later? Probably not. ( )
  Maydacat | Jan 24, 2015 |
I am so upset, my review just disappeared. Ugh. This will be much shorter! I enjoyed the writing and the alternating voices of Belle and Lavinia. It was sad to think that while race equality has come so far, the things that happened to Marshall as a child and shaped the man he became still happen today. Hopefully he would get help today. I was reflecting after I finished it about all of the missed connections that kept people apart, and I had to chuckle, because in today's electronic age, it would all be out there in 5 seconds flat! This came up in our book club to read a couple of times before it was voted through - I think I was afraid from the blurb that it would be too violent and upsetting, and I was right, but I guess it was part of the times, and it was definitely a worthwhile read for fans of this type of historical fiction. I won't risk writing any more! ( )
  MaureenCean | Jan 3, 2015 |
Started at a gripping 5 star, plummeted down to 3 stars in the middle, and finished at a solid 4 star. Phew, what a ride.

Lavinia and Belle narrates this tale that spanned 19 years covering 3 generations. At the age of 7, Lavinia and her family were struggling Irish immigrants crossing the ocean. Her parents died at sea, and her brother was sold elsewhere. Lavinia, shocked and confused, became an indentured servant to the Captain and his family – cared for by Belle, the family’s cook in the Kitchen House and the illegitimate child of the Captain, by Mama Mae and Papa George – the primary caretakers of the Big House, and by all those who are the slaves of the plantation in the Quarters. Lavinia thusly finds comfort, familial attachment, and love via a large group of warm, caring individuals with skin of a different color who loved her as much as she loved them. As it was the late 1700’s, the color of the skin did matter; it mattered a lot. Lavinia was afforded the opportunity to learn to read and write, in addition to her kitchen duties under Belle’s tutelage.

The story of the Kitchen House is complex yet straightforward with several themes and a large cast of characters.
Isolation: The Captain’s wife, Miss Martha, suffered from isolation – both physically (in the large plantation away from anything and anyone) and mentally (no companionship, no outlet). Her weakness becomes a suffering point for her children, especially the eldest son Marshall, who then falls prey to the abusive tutor, Mr. Waters.
Repeated Cycles: Lavinia continues the isolation. Marshall continues the abusive pattern onto others.
Secrecy / Jealousy / Anger / Denial: Miss Martha jealous of Belle, not knowing Belle is the Captain’s daughter. Lavinia angry at Beattie for sleeping with her husband, not willing to accept he beats her to submission.
Misunderstandings: I *HATE* this plot tool. What is this – a RomCom?? Grrr… (Thus the plummet to 3 stars.)

When this books focuses on the race relationships and the treatments of slaves (starvation, stealing from them, mutilation), it’s rock solid. When it’s in the plot twists, it’s meh. In the end though, I was deeply drawn by the survival of the human spirit, the creativity in living as well as one’s circumstances would allow, and the humanity and giving spirit that is innate in the human race. A worthwhile read.

Favorite Characters: Mama Mae and Papa George – Kind, loving, intelligent, sharp, courageous, fair, thoughtful
Less Favorite Character: Lavinia – her lack of courage, will, and clarity at times makes me want to smack her hard

Some Quotes:

On fresh meat – I have to admit that I vaguely remember this, don’t ask…:
“…she lifted a small ax and, with one blow, chopped off the chicken’s head. She flung the chicken’s body to the ground as blood pumped from its neck. The head lay severed while the body stayed on its feet, terrifying me with tis morbid death dance.”

On seasoning – wow, flavoring cornmeal with wood, this is news to me:
“…I caught a pleasant waft of the salty smell of pork, but I was surprised to see her stir up a piece of board from the bottom. She looked about carefully before removing it, then threw it quickly on the fire. I’m not sure how I knew, but I was aware that this was a piece of the board from Jimmy’s smokehouse theft.”

On belonging – perspective of a 7 year old:
“’Well,’ he said, ‘Belle, your mama. Papa, your daddy. Then who is Mama Mae?’
‘She’s the big mama,’ I said, surprised he didn’t know.
I felt enclosed in the laughter that followed, and although I wasn’t certain of my exact position in the family structure, I began to feel there was a place for me.”

On fear – after Ben was attacked and mutilated:
“Now he have the fear. If he put that fear into hisself, nothin’ make him happy. If he put the fear back onto the world, everthin’ be a reason to fight.”

On white vs. black:
“Ben, remember how you always called Abinia a lil bird. That what she look like now. Like a scared bird sittin’ on the ground. Take more than wind to get her up flyin’ again. Course, she actin’ just like a white woman, just give up, sittin’ in her room. Beattie got the same trouble, but she figure out a way to make it work for her. Don’t know why Abinia don’t do the same. It make me mad!” ( )
1 vote varwenea | Dec 17, 2014 |
It's been a while since I became so emotionally involved in a book that I stayed up to finish it. This wasn't one of those stories where it would be nice to keep going; I was compelled to finish it. There was such a sense of urgency that I could not put it down!

Told from the point of view of two narrators, The Kitchen House tells the story of life lived on a tobacco plantation in Virginia during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It doesn't hide the ugly truth of slavery, but it does leave the reader (or at least this reader) with a sense of hope for humanity. Racism is a learned behavior, and we see that in this story.

I may have to add details later... The emotions are still to fresh. Yes, the book is THAT good! ( )
  LadyLiz | Nov 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
Though there are several compelling insights in The Kitchen House, it’s nevertheless a formulaic story. There are graphic shocks, but no surprises.
added by lkernagh | editQuill & Quire, Sara Forsyth (Mar 1, 2010)
 
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For my beloved parents, Ted and Catherine Doepker, and for my dear mentor, Eleanor Drewry Dolan
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There was a strong smell of smoke, and new fear fueled me.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
After seven-year-old Lavinia is orphaned on the journey from Ireland to the United States, she begins work in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation and bonds with the slaves who become her adopted family, but when Lavinia is accepted into the big house, her loyalties are challenged.
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"In 1790, Lavinia, a seven-year-old Irish orphan with no memory of her past, arrives on a tobacco plantation where she is put to work as an indentured servant with the kitchen house slaves. Though she becomes deeply bonded to her new family, Lavinia is also slowly accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. As time passes she finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds and when loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare and lives are at risk. "--Publisher's description.… (more)

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