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In this gripping New York Times bestseller, Kathleen Grissom brings to life a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War, where a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate.

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 and love 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, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.

Topics: Slavery, Family, Race Relations, Orphans, Abuse, Addiction, Gripping, Heartbreaking, Dramatic, Civil War Period, Virginia, Plantations , and Debut

Published: Touchstone on
ISBN: 9781439160121
List price: $10.99
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Excellent. So heart rendering. Cannot count how many times I cried.more
What's the price of this book?more
What's the price of this book?more
Exceptional book. Heart wrenching and delightful all at once. The characters are so vivid you feel as though you know them.more
finished this book in one morning. page turner..you won't be able to put it down. more
Wow! I am exhausted. This was a very deep, dark, depressing, exceedingly detailed novel. This has the feel and flavor of a Steinbeck classic. I have a feeling this smells of a mini-series from HBO. I would not be surprised.

I threw up my hands in frustration, and yelled at the air as every page took a toll on me. I felt like I have been on a water slide being dunked under and then suddenly brought up for air. Every single page consumes you into the Kitchen House with that big old oak tree swaying in the breeze, you are there feeling every word. coaster ride. This novel will stick with you for awhile, as you are dazed until the very last page. Heed my words now and read it until the very, very end. more
Couldn't put it down! more
If you love historical fiction you will enjoy this bookmore
Found plenty of plot twists, and well-written. Highly recommend.more
Great book! It was hard to put it down in evenings. I also recommended it to my friends. more
cosa peluda te amp
more
cosa peluda te amp
more
I really enjoyed this book. It's been a long time since I was so absorbed by characters that I found myself thinking about them when I wasn't reading the book. A really good read. more
This is one of the best books I have EVER read. The characters were believable, the dialog was understandable and the story very real. The great American novel written by a very perceptive Canadian.more
Just finished this for a local book group read and I didn't enjoy this book. I felt it was contrived and filled with every Southern slave-era stereotype available. The underlying premise was very good, the alternating voices the one true saving grace (in my opinion), but it was an overly dark and depressing read that offered no insight or perspective.more
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Kitchen House". I listened to the audio version of this book in two days. I found myself at times when not listening wandering what was going on with the characters, Momma, Belle, Lavinia, Papa and the others.To me, this story wasn't just another book about slavery and how slaves were treated but it had an interesting twist. In the story there's a little frail Irish girl who is brought by the Captain to work and live with the slaves. In doing so she forms an unimaginable bond and attachment to them that transforms her as a child and changes the course of her life as an adult.more
When I was younger, I used to have these amazing dreams of living on a big plantation and rolling down the green hills. Maybe a little far off of reality, but it has always sparked my interest in plantation life. Yes, my reality was a bit skewed in my happy little bubble of suburbia... Truly, as a child, I never imagined anything more than the hill and the big white house. (Maybe some iced tea and a big 'ol hat?)

Kathleen Grissom cleverly pointed out to my imagination, the other side of plantation life. She focuses her novel on the servants and their relationships with those in "the big house." Her storylines take you from times that you want to cheer to times that you want to personally take out some of the nasty characters yourself!

I have to say, as much as I HATED the character of Marshall, Grissom did an incredible job with him. He is a truly evil person and it's through her descriptions of his unspeakable deeds do you really, really want to get rid of him. Truly well written...

You can't help but fall in love with the other characters. All of them. There's enough of a twinge of reality thrown in to remind you of the injustice that took place during this time (approximately 1800) with slave trading. I'm reminded of truly how far we've come in this world.

Wonderful, wonderful read (or listen - I read via audiobook).more
Lots and lots of tragedy, but I still enjoyed it.more
The prologue of this book was pretty damn awesome. So much so that I was ready to give this book 5 stars right off the bat. But as the story progressed Grissom threw the kitchen house, the master’s house, the slave quarters and then some into this story. It became melodramatic. The problem was that it hit on one too many topics- the power of withholding secrets, incest, slavery, indentured servitude, drug use, mental illness and abuse just to name a few. It seemed like the characters in this book never received a break and it became difficult to see the silver lining. I know that real life is like this, but for me the problem was that the good times were glossed over. They were briefly mentioned, dismissed and then we were onto the next drama. I needed more good times to balance this novel out because it became tiresome to read of how these characters were living in constant fear. That is one of the main reasons this book earned 4 stars rather 5.

Despite my complaint, this story was well researched and written, especially for a first time novelist. Grissom’s characters really popped out of the story. My favorite character was Belle, simply because she kept it real. She knew what she wanted, didn’t care what others thought about it but at the same time she wasn’t selfish. Kudos to Grissom for writing such a balanced character. Oddly enough, the character I didn’t like was Lavinia, who was one of the main characters. The young Lavinia started out well enough and tore at my heartstrings a few times, but as she grew up her naivety became annoying. It seemed like she never smartened up, especially when it came to race relations, which I didn’t understand considering she grew up with the slaves. I didn’t think her naivety, and at times stupidity, were realistic because she wasn’t sheltered from the issues even though they weren’t directly communicated to her she was still observant. Most of the story was told from her viewpoint after all, so it really didn’t make any sense that she didn’t learn any lessons along the way. I was really disappointed with her as she became another Mrs. Marshall. To me this plot line only served to fulfill the stereotype that white women can’t cope with life, which was actually commented upon several times by the black characters. I thought it was a cop out for Grissom to go in this direction, which was another reason for my 4 star rating.

I did like the end though. I thought Grissom gave readers a realistic ending. She tied up loose ends, but not in such a manner that I felt she pushed it too much in the happy zone, so it didn’t feel “fairytale-ish.” It wasn’t happily ever after, but it was just enough to make me happy.

The audio for this story was well done for the most part and I can see why it’s a popular pick over at Audible. The narration is done by two narrators: Orlagh Cassidy (Lavinia) and Bahni Turpin (Belle). To me it sounded like Cassidy changed Lavinia’s voice about halfway through the audio. At one point it sounded like Lavinia lost her Irish accent and then at odd times she would get it back. At first I thought it was the narrator’s way of showing Lavinia’s new station in life, but after the accent came back I think it was just shoddy narration. I also didn’t like that Cassidy added a bit of vibration to her voice causing it to sound more dramatic than it needed to be on certain already emotional parts. It made the audio version even more melodramatic than it already was. I did love Turpin as Belle though. I thought she gave Belle the right amount of attitude and I looked forward to listening to her parts.

Overall, this is a good piece of historical fiction about family, the power of love and togetherness. If you don’t mind having your characters battered around for a good chunk of the story and have a strong stomach you’ll probably like this one.
more
heart. breaking. Nearly gave me an ulcer from all my worrying about all the characters. While it was an excellent book, I can honestly say, I'm glad that it's finished.more
I've never heard of this book until some out of town friends I know read it in a book group, so I decided to read it. What a truly terrific read, not sure why I never heard of it before. While immigrating from Ireland, Lavinia loses both parents so at seven-year-old she is send to work in the captain's home to pay off her cost of passage. The slaves in the kitchen house become her family as she grows up feeling both a servant but also white. What could become trite, turns into an interesting historical tale with character driven action and a somewhat sense of a true feel of what life was like back in a 1790's plantation. Eventually she is accepted into the "big house" and becomes the woman of the home, but she finds that even though she is technically free, she really is still at the whim of her husband, who is also her "master". Great take on black and women's rights of the era. Heart-warming at times, yet fast paced and sometimes gritty as scenes of the real world of the era emerge.I listed to, and highly recommend the audiobook version of this title read in turns by Lavinia (Orlagh Cassidy ) and Belle (Bahni Turpin) Great narration and voice choices! Bahmi is one of my favorite narrators with a beautiful, evocative voice.more
My mom gave me this book for my birthday in October and I chose it for our book club to read this last month. There is no question this is an excellent choice for a book club. There is so much to talk about! Slavery, alcoholism, parenting, family dynamics, and abuse are all topics that you will be sure to discuss. My book also had discussion questions at the end of the book.With this book set during the late 1700's and into the 1800's, and in the south, there are certain expectations and rules that you have to remember. Plantations were isolated from the outside world it seemed and really were their own little country, running themselves and living off of their own produced goods. Slaves were common and their treatment was often tragically ruthless. What sets this book apart from other books of this genre is that Lavinia lives in the slave world but is white. She sees herself as one of them and doesn't understand that there is a difference between the two worlds. So, once her life with the slaves is uprooted, her whole world is turned upside down. Lavinia was very naive as to the societal expectations and social obligations and because of that, this novel has many interesting twists.This book is told is alternating chapters between Belle, a slave in the kitchen house, and Lavinia. The naive telling of the story from Lavinia's perspective is compared to the harsh telling from Belle's perspective and in this way you get the whole story. There are many characters in this story and it may be helpful to keep track of them all and their relationship to each other while you are reading. The family of slaves is large and ever-growing throughout the story.At times, the story is difficult to read due to the atrocities that happened both to the white son and the slaves. As the story builds, you begin to feel both anger and compassion towards those committing the violence. Unfortunately, the lesson "hurting people hurt others" plays out in this story in many, many ways. As the story comes to a close, you will be sitting on the edge of your seat, reading the words and flipping the pages just as fast as you can to find out what will become of the characters. If you are easily emotional, keep tissues close by. The writer has built an interesting twist in the story that begins in the prologue and ends in the last nail-biting chapter.more
This book got off to a great start. I couldn't put it down. Yes, a quick read. That said, overall, I found it disappointing... If a movie is made of this novel, I think that movie will be shown on LifeTime Television, and I don't mean that in a good way.more
I was truly engaged while reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. It is a riveting story that compels the reader forward, not wanting for the book to end, but intrigued to discover the conclusion. The novel takes place during the 1800(s) in the south where slavery was considered normal and a right. There were parts of this novel that were difficult to read because of their graphic nature and because they vividly illustrated man's inhumanity. This was not a time period to be proud of, and the cruelty, heartlessness, discrimination and racism displayed made me cringe. However, the author also provided characters that represented the very best in people.The reader comes to love Mama Mae, a black slave that is an integral part of the kitchen house and the heart of the novel. This kindhearted woman stole the story for me. Lavinia is a white indentured servant who is raised and loved by the black women of the kitchen house and their families. However, the fact that Lavinia is white changes her relationship with her "family" once her service contract ends and she is schooled in a different way of life. Lavinia is constantly torn between what is expected of her and what she feels for the loving family that raised her.This is not a heartwarming story by any stretch of the imagination, although there were scenes that were touching, meaningful, and will stay with the reader. The tragedies and violence experienced are incredibly disturbing and haunting. This period of history deserved to be treated brutally and harshly. I had wished for a different ending, but the one provided was clearly more realistic.I highly recommend this book.more
I haven't read a page-turner like this in a while. Connecting with the story and the characters hit me from the very first paragraph. I wanted to get to the end and have more to read all at the same time.I found the story of Levinia's indentured servitude woven into the lives of those as slaves to be a clever tool to highlight the heinousness of slavery. The writing was raw and, especially when in Belle's voice, made me feel the pain of each moment within the lives of these characters...knowing that these must be real events people had to survive at one time. A story well told.more
This is the story of the life of Lavinia, a young girl orphaned in the late 1700s during the trip her family makes from Ireland to America. Lavinia is immersed into plantation life when the ship's captain takes her home to be raised by the slaves who care for his assets. The many family secrets come to the surface during her life and the challenges that she faces make most interesting reading. I highly recommend this book. it is truly well written.more
Read all 93 reviews

Reviews

Excellent. So heart rendering. Cannot count how many times I cried.more
What's the price of this book?more
What's the price of this book?more
Exceptional book. Heart wrenching and delightful all at once. The characters are so vivid you feel as though you know them.more
finished this book in one morning. page turner..you won't be able to put it down. more
Wow! I am exhausted. This was a very deep, dark, depressing, exceedingly detailed novel. This has the feel and flavor of a Steinbeck classic. I have a feeling this smells of a mini-series from HBO. I would not be surprised.

I threw up my hands in frustration, and yelled at the air as every page took a toll on me. I felt like I have been on a water slide being dunked under and then suddenly brought up for air. Every single page consumes you into the Kitchen House with that big old oak tree swaying in the breeze, you are there feeling every word. coaster ride. This novel will stick with you for awhile, as you are dazed until the very last page. Heed my words now and read it until the very, very end. more
Couldn't put it down! more
If you love historical fiction you will enjoy this bookmore
Found plenty of plot twists, and well-written. Highly recommend.more
Great book! It was hard to put it down in evenings. I also recommended it to my friends. more
cosa peluda te amp
more
cosa peluda te amp
more
I really enjoyed this book. It's been a long time since I was so absorbed by characters that I found myself thinking about them when I wasn't reading the book. A really good read. more
This is one of the best books I have EVER read. The characters were believable, the dialog was understandable and the story very real. The great American novel written by a very perceptive Canadian.more
Just finished this for a local book group read and I didn't enjoy this book. I felt it was contrived and filled with every Southern slave-era stereotype available. The underlying premise was very good, the alternating voices the one true saving grace (in my opinion), but it was an overly dark and depressing read that offered no insight or perspective.more
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Kitchen House". I listened to the audio version of this book in two days. I found myself at times when not listening wandering what was going on with the characters, Momma, Belle, Lavinia, Papa and the others.To me, this story wasn't just another book about slavery and how slaves were treated but it had an interesting twist. In the story there's a little frail Irish girl who is brought by the Captain to work and live with the slaves. In doing so she forms an unimaginable bond and attachment to them that transforms her as a child and changes the course of her life as an adult.more
When I was younger, I used to have these amazing dreams of living on a big plantation and rolling down the green hills. Maybe a little far off of reality, but it has always sparked my interest in plantation life. Yes, my reality was a bit skewed in my happy little bubble of suburbia... Truly, as a child, I never imagined anything more than the hill and the big white house. (Maybe some iced tea and a big 'ol hat?)

Kathleen Grissom cleverly pointed out to my imagination, the other side of plantation life. She focuses her novel on the servants and their relationships with those in "the big house." Her storylines take you from times that you want to cheer to times that you want to personally take out some of the nasty characters yourself!

I have to say, as much as I HATED the character of Marshall, Grissom did an incredible job with him. He is a truly evil person and it's through her descriptions of his unspeakable deeds do you really, really want to get rid of him. Truly well written...

You can't help but fall in love with the other characters. All of them. There's enough of a twinge of reality thrown in to remind you of the injustice that took place during this time (approximately 1800) with slave trading. I'm reminded of truly how far we've come in this world.

Wonderful, wonderful read (or listen - I read via audiobook).more
Lots and lots of tragedy, but I still enjoyed it.more
The prologue of this book was pretty damn awesome. So much so that I was ready to give this book 5 stars right off the bat. But as the story progressed Grissom threw the kitchen house, the master’s house, the slave quarters and then some into this story. It became melodramatic. The problem was that it hit on one too many topics- the power of withholding secrets, incest, slavery, indentured servitude, drug use, mental illness and abuse just to name a few. It seemed like the characters in this book never received a break and it became difficult to see the silver lining. I know that real life is like this, but for me the problem was that the good times were glossed over. They were briefly mentioned, dismissed and then we were onto the next drama. I needed more good times to balance this novel out because it became tiresome to read of how these characters were living in constant fear. That is one of the main reasons this book earned 4 stars rather 5.

Despite my complaint, this story was well researched and written, especially for a first time novelist. Grissom’s characters really popped out of the story. My favorite character was Belle, simply because she kept it real. She knew what she wanted, didn’t care what others thought about it but at the same time she wasn’t selfish. Kudos to Grissom for writing such a balanced character. Oddly enough, the character I didn’t like was Lavinia, who was one of the main characters. The young Lavinia started out well enough and tore at my heartstrings a few times, but as she grew up her naivety became annoying. It seemed like she never smartened up, especially when it came to race relations, which I didn’t understand considering she grew up with the slaves. I didn’t think her naivety, and at times stupidity, were realistic because she wasn’t sheltered from the issues even though they weren’t directly communicated to her she was still observant. Most of the story was told from her viewpoint after all, so it really didn’t make any sense that she didn’t learn any lessons along the way. I was really disappointed with her as she became another Mrs. Marshall. To me this plot line only served to fulfill the stereotype that white women can’t cope with life, which was actually commented upon several times by the black characters. I thought it was a cop out for Grissom to go in this direction, which was another reason for my 4 star rating.

I did like the end though. I thought Grissom gave readers a realistic ending. She tied up loose ends, but not in such a manner that I felt she pushed it too much in the happy zone, so it didn’t feel “fairytale-ish.” It wasn’t happily ever after, but it was just enough to make me happy.

The audio for this story was well done for the most part and I can see why it’s a popular pick over at Audible. The narration is done by two narrators: Orlagh Cassidy (Lavinia) and Bahni Turpin (Belle). To me it sounded like Cassidy changed Lavinia’s voice about halfway through the audio. At one point it sounded like Lavinia lost her Irish accent and then at odd times she would get it back. At first I thought it was the narrator’s way of showing Lavinia’s new station in life, but after the accent came back I think it was just shoddy narration. I also didn’t like that Cassidy added a bit of vibration to her voice causing it to sound more dramatic than it needed to be on certain already emotional parts. It made the audio version even more melodramatic than it already was. I did love Turpin as Belle though. I thought she gave Belle the right amount of attitude and I looked forward to listening to her parts.

Overall, this is a good piece of historical fiction about family, the power of love and togetherness. If you don’t mind having your characters battered around for a good chunk of the story and have a strong stomach you’ll probably like this one.
more
heart. breaking. Nearly gave me an ulcer from all my worrying about all the characters. While it was an excellent book, I can honestly say, I'm glad that it's finished.more
I've never heard of this book until some out of town friends I know read it in a book group, so I decided to read it. What a truly terrific read, not sure why I never heard of it before. While immigrating from Ireland, Lavinia loses both parents so at seven-year-old she is send to work in the captain's home to pay off her cost of passage. The slaves in the kitchen house become her family as she grows up feeling both a servant but also white. What could become trite, turns into an interesting historical tale with character driven action and a somewhat sense of a true feel of what life was like back in a 1790's plantation. Eventually she is accepted into the "big house" and becomes the woman of the home, but she finds that even though she is technically free, she really is still at the whim of her husband, who is also her "master". Great take on black and women's rights of the era. Heart-warming at times, yet fast paced and sometimes gritty as scenes of the real world of the era emerge.I listed to, and highly recommend the audiobook version of this title read in turns by Lavinia (Orlagh Cassidy ) and Belle (Bahni Turpin) Great narration and voice choices! Bahmi is one of my favorite narrators with a beautiful, evocative voice.more
My mom gave me this book for my birthday in October and I chose it for our book club to read this last month. There is no question this is an excellent choice for a book club. There is so much to talk about! Slavery, alcoholism, parenting, family dynamics, and abuse are all topics that you will be sure to discuss. My book also had discussion questions at the end of the book.With this book set during the late 1700's and into the 1800's, and in the south, there are certain expectations and rules that you have to remember. Plantations were isolated from the outside world it seemed and really were their own little country, running themselves and living off of their own produced goods. Slaves were common and their treatment was often tragically ruthless. What sets this book apart from other books of this genre is that Lavinia lives in the slave world but is white. She sees herself as one of them and doesn't understand that there is a difference between the two worlds. So, once her life with the slaves is uprooted, her whole world is turned upside down. Lavinia was very naive as to the societal expectations and social obligations and because of that, this novel has many interesting twists.This book is told is alternating chapters between Belle, a slave in the kitchen house, and Lavinia. The naive telling of the story from Lavinia's perspective is compared to the harsh telling from Belle's perspective and in this way you get the whole story. There are many characters in this story and it may be helpful to keep track of them all and their relationship to each other while you are reading. The family of slaves is large and ever-growing throughout the story.At times, the story is difficult to read due to the atrocities that happened both to the white son and the slaves. As the story builds, you begin to feel both anger and compassion towards those committing the violence. Unfortunately, the lesson "hurting people hurt others" plays out in this story in many, many ways. As the story comes to a close, you will be sitting on the edge of your seat, reading the words and flipping the pages just as fast as you can to find out what will become of the characters. If you are easily emotional, keep tissues close by. The writer has built an interesting twist in the story that begins in the prologue and ends in the last nail-biting chapter.more
This book got off to a great start. I couldn't put it down. Yes, a quick read. That said, overall, I found it disappointing... If a movie is made of this novel, I think that movie will be shown on LifeTime Television, and I don't mean that in a good way.more
I was truly engaged while reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. It is a riveting story that compels the reader forward, not wanting for the book to end, but intrigued to discover the conclusion. The novel takes place during the 1800(s) in the south where slavery was considered normal and a right. There were parts of this novel that were difficult to read because of their graphic nature and because they vividly illustrated man's inhumanity. This was not a time period to be proud of, and the cruelty, heartlessness, discrimination and racism displayed made me cringe. However, the author also provided characters that represented the very best in people.The reader comes to love Mama Mae, a black slave that is an integral part of the kitchen house and the heart of the novel. This kindhearted woman stole the story for me. Lavinia is a white indentured servant who is raised and loved by the black women of the kitchen house and their families. However, the fact that Lavinia is white changes her relationship with her "family" once her service contract ends and she is schooled in a different way of life. Lavinia is constantly torn between what is expected of her and what she feels for the loving family that raised her.This is not a heartwarming story by any stretch of the imagination, although there were scenes that were touching, meaningful, and will stay with the reader. The tragedies and violence experienced are incredibly disturbing and haunting. This period of history deserved to be treated brutally and harshly. I had wished for a different ending, but the one provided was clearly more realistic.I highly recommend this book.more
I haven't read a page-turner like this in a while. Connecting with the story and the characters hit me from the very first paragraph. I wanted to get to the end and have more to read all at the same time.I found the story of Levinia's indentured servitude woven into the lives of those as slaves to be a clever tool to highlight the heinousness of slavery. The writing was raw and, especially when in Belle's voice, made me feel the pain of each moment within the lives of these characters...knowing that these must be real events people had to survive at one time. A story well told.more
This is the story of the life of Lavinia, a young girl orphaned in the late 1700s during the trip her family makes from Ireland to America. Lavinia is immersed into plantation life when the ship's captain takes her home to be raised by the slaves who care for his assets. The many family secrets come to the surface during her life and the challenges that she faces make most interesting reading. I highly recommend this book. it is truly well written.more
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