Monday, October 24, 2011

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

A twist on the traditional antebellum novel, The Kitchen House is the story of a white orphan girl indentured at the ship captain's estate to pay for her now-deceased family's fare to America.

Lavinia is raised in the kitchen house, and enfolded into Mama Mae's family - a close-knit, proud and loyal negro slave family on the Pyke plantation. She's completely accepted as a member of the family, yet she doesn't understand why sometimes things are different for her; she truly doesn't see that she's any different from any of her playmates or workmates.

Equal parts wise and naive, Lavinia is pushed and pulled along the course of her life, sometimes based on fate and other times due to her actions. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her, but I also know we do our best based on the information we have at-hand.

The library's book discussion group chose this book, and I really had to scramble to finish it in time. But it's actually a quick read, and I found it completely captivating. The audiobook is narrated by two women, Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin, as chapters alternate viewpoint between Lavinia and her surrogate mother Belle. Both women are excellent narrators (Turpin was also part of The Help's audio team), and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them.

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