Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House"What the color is, who the daddy be, who the mama is don't mean nothin'. We a family, carin' for each other. Family make us strong in times of trouble. We all stick together, help each other out. That the real meanin' of family..."

This is not just a historical novel.. it's a novel about family. NOT the family we are born and stuck with, but the family we choose. Those we prefer to surround ourselves with, those who stand by us thru thick and thin... friends.

The year is 1791 and Lavinia is only seven years old when she loses her birth family on a ship sailing from Ireland to America and finds herself an indentured servant to a very disturbing household. Despite the misery around her, Lavinia chooses a new family. Her new family, the people that take her in and care for her as tho she is their own reside in the slave quarters. The women are treated as concubines. The men can be bought and sold on a whim and beaten whenever their "masters" desire. Lavinia's new family has been much abused by the white man, but despite Lavinia's pale skin and red hair, they open their arms to her. There is Mama Mae, Papa George, Belle, Ben, Uncle Jacob, and more touching characters. These people literally go to hell and back everyday. There is no end to their misery, but they are always there for Lavinia.

Lavinia as she grows up finds herself often in the middle of household intrigue. The "master" is rarely home and his wife constantly lies in a drug induced stupor. The daughter meets with tragedy and the son is scarred for life by a cruel and evil tutor. The slave quarters have their own intrigue going on. There are affairs, broken hearts, and many many secrets. The secrets being kept end up hurting more by being hushed than if the truth had come out. Had Belle's and Jaimie's parentages been revealed to certain parties early on, so much heartache and pain could have been avoided...

I don't wish to reveal very much of the plot. It's a book that reveals a little bit by little bit. It's a great debut, but I have one major issue with it. In the last quarter, I began to think Lavinia is just unbelievably blind and dumb. She also becomes very weak. I prefer stronger heroines. When they going gets tough, Lavinia cries while her adopted family runs their arses off and risks their necks to help her out. 

Still a great book and really touches on the family and skin color issues. Color is only an issue if you make it one.

I bought this book on Amazon.


  1. Lavinia was my major issue with the book, too. That and it was too much of a downer for me. But it was a great debut.

  2. Very good review Tara. This sounds like a tangled web of secrets, It sounds very interesting. It is nice to read books that show the tender side of a culture no matter what the slaves had been thru they still were there and cared for Lavinia.