Love, Lust, and Secret Lives in the Kitchen House

19 Mar Love, Lust, and Secret Lives in the Kitchen House

Happy Monday!

Let me say here and now, thank you to Ruth, our LOL member who chose our latest novel, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I am loving it! It is so fast paced, I’m flying through it. I encourage all LOL followers to grab a copy and join us!

Wondering what it’s about? Here’s a synopsis from the author’s website, which by the way, is worth a peak.

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. The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail. 

Check out Ms. Grissom’s site. I loved the “About Kathleen” page. The author sounds so down to earth and I’m so intrigued by how this book just came to her, demanding to be written.

Like a few members, before we embarked upon this novel, I wondered if it might not be too much like our first book, the Help. Also fast-paced, loaded with engaging and colourful characters, both black and white–would the Kitchen House be a similar commentary on the racial divide between blacks and whites in the deep south? Did we need to read another book of that sort?

Of course. Sure, there are some similarities (I’m about 1/3 into it), most notably witty, bright, fiercely loyal and inspiring black characters struggling to assert themselves despite the racism and cruelty they are often subjected to. But we’re talking about books set in completely different eras. While the Help happens in the 60’s, when blacks have won their freedom but sadly struggle as under paid servants, the Kitchen House is set in the the late 18th century, when they are still enslaved.

What I’ve found fascinating so far, is the way in which the author shapes the evolving relationships between Lavinia, the white girl who ends up on the plantation because the master (the Captain) takes pity on her when her parents perish on his ship, during a voyage from Ireland to find a better life in America, and the many slaves she becomes close to. Captain James brings the girl home, where she becomes part of the family of kind and wise slaves who count themselves blessed to tend to the big house–a much higher station (not to mention better fed) than the blacks below them, the malnourished, under-clothed, often mistreated slaves of the quarters.

Of course the book quickly hints that both the black slaves of the kitchen house and the privileged whites inhabiting the big house love deeply, fight loyally, but hide their fair share of secrets. Already there has been true love, wanton lust, disturbing pedophilia, tragic death, and justifiable murder…I’d say it’s a page turner!

Join me for more on Wordy Wednesday.