The Kitchen House: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 57 minutes|
|Narrator||Orlagh Cassidy, Bahni Turpin|
|Audible.ca Release Date||September 26 2017|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #38,465 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#380 in Coming of Age Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,842 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,492 in Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from Canada
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The story begins in 1791 and is told by the two main characters, Lavinia and Belle in alternating chapters.
Two Irish immigrants die on their journey from Ireland to America on the ship that is owned by Captain James Pyke. He is also Captain of the ship. They leave behind two children, a son, Cardigan and a daughter, Lavinia. Because their parents didn't pay their passage, the children are separated. Cardigan is easy to place and is sold and sent to another city to work as a slave, while Lavinia, who is almost seven years old, sick, frail and scared to death is taken by the Captain and is handed over to Belle on the Tall Oaks tobacco plantation in Southern Virginia, which he owns.
Belle is the illegitimate half-white daughter of the Captain and she runs the Kitchen House, which is considered to be a place of privilege on the plantation.
For seven years of her life, Belle is raised by her grandmother, the Captain's mother, in the BIG HOUSE. Her white grandmother accepts Belle as her granddaughter and teaches her everything, just like a white girl. She learns how to read, write and how to behave. Their relationship is one of love for each other. Then one day, her grandmother dies suddenly. Belle is shocked and takes the death badly.
Captain Pyke has never married and one day decides to bring home a young wife named Martha,who is twenty years to his forty years. Belle is then evicted from his home. She moves to the Kitchen House, because he doesn't want his young wife to know. The Captain is absent most of the time and his young wife has to oversee the plantation. He and his wife, Miss Martha have two children, Marshall and Sally. Marshall grows up to be an alcoholic and violent man who causes turmoil wherever he goes.
Some of the people living in the Kitchen House are Mama Mae, the matriarch, Papa George, the Patriarch, their children, Uncle Jacob and Ben. Mama Mae is in charge of the women slaves. She teaches Belle how to cook and now, Belle presides over the Kitchen House and cooks for the Big House. Belle loves Mama Mae and Papa George. She would rather stay at the place she calls home than accept the "Freedom Papers". Belle is now a beautiful eighteen year old woman, to whom the Captain pays private visits and gives her small gifts.
There is also Rankin, an employee, who when the Captain is away sees an opportunity to run the plantation the way he sees fit. He makes life miserable for everyone. He is cruel, a heartless drunk and brings trouble wherever he goes.
Lavinia is nursed back to health and is treated with kindness and concern by Mama Mae, Papa George and Belle. Lavinia, also known as Abinia, becomes close to the slaves while working in the Kitchen House. She can't quite fit in, because she is white. But with time, she grows to love the people and considers them her adopted family.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the BIG HOUSE. The Master is always absent and Miss Martha struggles with opium addiction and requires the help of Lavinia. Lavinia, who has her own problems of where her loyalties lie, is forced to make a big decision that can ultimately change her life.
The book is filled with twists and turns. There are secrets, births, deaths, drug and alcohol abuse, beatings and more.
The book is well-written, fast paced and full of action.
Kathleen Grissom explores the world of Slavery and also the world of White Slavery of which very little is known.
This debut book is a HUGE SUCCESS and I can Highly recommend it.
The injustice then is truly horrific (and still continues). This book took a while to get into but was a worthwhile read.
I thought the ending somewhat rushed, compared to the length of time for the story to conclude. Non the less, it was a very good read, and makes me want to read more by this author.
Top reviews from other countries
It covers a wide range of sensitive topics including domestic abuse, rape, mental illness, drug dependency and of course racism as evidenced in the slave trade. These issues provoke fierce debate and evoke even greater emotions. Unfortunately I did not feel the emotion I believe the author intended to evoke in her reader. Rather than tackling these issues directly, Grissom skirts around them, maintaining a distance. The heinous acts committed by various characters are only ever implied. Although I do not expect explicit descriptions, I feel that had the author been more descriptive, the emotional impact would have been much greater.
For me author's writing lacked sophistication and as a result I did not connect with the characters or the story as I would have liked to. I do not mean this in a derogatory way but this book very much had the feel of a young adult book and I do think this would be very popular with the young adult audience.
However I would not discourage others from reading it! It is an interesting premise and shines a light once again on the horrors of the slave trade.
Lavinia is but one of a large cast of characters in this novel. She is naive, but likable, however not my favourite. Out of all of them Mama Mae is my favourite character. 'I work for Mrs. Pyke like I don't know what tired mean. Nothing' that I won't do. "Yes, Mrs. Pyke, you right, Mrs. Pyke," that all I say. You girls watch me close. I act like I don't have no mind of my own, except how to make every body in the big house happy. That because I mean to stay up there, and I tryin' hard to keep you girls with me.'
I found this to be a real page-turner; I really couldn't wait to see how the story would unfold. It was exciting up until the very end.