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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Kathleen Grissom

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1,6841224,243 (4.02)118
Title:The Kitchen House
Authors:Kathleen Grissom
Info:Touchstone (2010), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Indentured servants -- Fiction, Slaves - Fiction, Plantation life -- Southern States -- Fiction

Work details

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010)

Recently added byMyraRamirez, private library, varwenea, katolibrary, OneMorePage, jsalmeron
  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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» See also 118 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
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 |
Sometimes you just don't agree with the majority and that is definitely the case with this book which currently averages a rating of 4.01 on LibraryThing...and I gave it only 2 stars. Maybe this book is a victim of circumstance since I'm reading it right on the heels of Gone With the Wind or maybe it is just not as well-written as I'd hoped. If the Enquirer or Star magazines from the grocery store checkout lanes were reincarnated as a novel, this would be that novel. There was so much sensationalism and zero subtlety and this meant that preposterous plot lines hit you over the head without mercy. I couldn't wait to get to the end and didn't really care how all of those plots resolved. ( )
  kellifrobinson | Nov 25, 2014 |
I loved this book!
It is the story of Lavania and the family that she has created for herself. The story opens with Lavania being deposited at the kitchen house by the Captain. Lavania is a frightened and deeply disoriented little girl whose parents have both died on the Captain's ship as it crossed the Atlantic. Her older brother was sold into indentured servitude and the Captain didn't know what to do with her so she was given to the slaves at the kitchen on his plantation.

What a lucky turn of events for Lavania!

Through Belle and Big Mamma, two of the kitchen slaves, Lavania slowly comes to her senses and begins to grow -to blossom. We find out about the terrible disfunction of this plantation where the Captain is away for long periods of time and his wife is too doped up on Opium to be sensible. The slaves are run by a horrible overseer - sounds a little stereotypical - but probably true too.

This is a window into the world of a plantation through the eyes of a scared, lonely girl who slowly grows into a beautiful colorblind woman. Being colorblind in the south before the civil war is not always an easy thing - as Lavania learns again and again.

The only part of this book I didn't like was the beginning. The book opens with a scene that actually takes place much later in the story. It made me dread that moment and jump to conclusions about it. I'm sure that is what Grissom wanted - but it really took away from the story for me. I actually stopped reading for a day because I didn't want it to happen. And then I felt a bit manipulated.

But - aside from that I would strongly recommend this! I read it right after The Help. Interesting to have those two stories back to back in my head...the South from long ago and not so long ago with many of the same issues still there...

Read it! ( )
  kebets | Nov 1, 2014 |
I really liked this book. It was about a girl named Abina whose parents died coming over from Ireland. The Captain took her in and kept her in and kept her as a servant in a sense. Abina becomes a part of the family of the slaves. They become her mamma and papa and she cares for their children. When the daughter of the captain dies suddenly she cares for the mistress and their new born son. The captain and his wife and their son and a slave all go to Philadelphia for a vacation they catch yellow fever and the slave and son die and the captain becomes very ill. This just sets everything in motion for Abinas life. Things change for her. Without giving spoilers. I wanted to keep reading this story. The story left you wanting more. ( )
  bwhitner | Oct 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 122 (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
First words
There was a strong smell of smoke, and new fear fueled me.
Last words
(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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