Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom was recommended to me by my friend Mary Beth. As she has always had exquisite taste, I knew this book would be a read I enjoyed. And it was.

It was also a read that exhausted me, spent me emotionally. Life during the late 1700's and early 1800's was terribly hard, physically demanding, and racked with illnesses they could not treat. I found my heart pulled through my chest and drug through the same tobacco fields the people of the time period worked, caked and baked in sugar dust, doped with laudanum and laced with love. I cannot tell you it is a happy story, but I can tell you it is a shockingly true story. While not based in fact, but in fiction, the picture painted by Ms. Grissom is of details you simply know are true.

The Kitchen House chronicles the journey of a young Irish girl, Lavinia, striped from her deceased parents and brought to America as an indentured servant. She is sent to live in the kitchen house with Belle (the Master's mixed daughter) and her family. Although she is white, as a child, she serves the house and the family as one of the slaves. [Side note: I was unaware of the amount of Irish people brought over to America to serve as slaves. I find this detail interesting and extremely thought provoking. Research will be done.]

As Lavinia ages, because of her precocious nature, her wild red hair and her hazel eyes, she is given an opportunity to become educated, to live as a "white" person in Williamsburg with her Aunt and Uncle, by relation of the Master's wife. Her fortune proves to be good for her academically and socially, but Lavinia longs for her family, for Papa George and Mama Mae, for Belle, the twins she befriended as a child, and the babies she's helped raise - a myriad of mixed children forged via rape from the young Master's son, the field keeper Rankin (talk about a character that will disgust you!), and other white men looking to sow their wild oats.

Throughout this painful, yet endearing novel, a story of tolerance, of struggle, of heartache, and of hope  pierces the reader's soul. It's historically accurate and fictionally sound. I loved the details, the history, and the characters, all drawn in real life accuracy.

The Kitchen House is the kind of book that stays with you, with characters connected deep within the root of person, down to the very essence of humanity.

A definite five stars. A must-read.

The Kitchen House is Kathleen Grissom's first novel. For more about her and her upcoming sophomore book release, Crow Mary (of which I will certainly read) visit her website at:  http://www.kathleengrissom.com/thekitchenhouse.htm


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