When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
Pages: 369 (paperback)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
Date Completed: October 28, 2012
I had not heard about The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom until it was nominated for and then selected as the November read for the Partners and Professors book club. The premise of the story was interesting, but I did not really know what to expect. For the first half of the book, I was really engrossed with the story and kept trying to find a few minutes to read. Towards the end, I felt restless and found myself "scanning" ahead to see what was coming next.
The story is told from the perspective of two women, Lavinia and Belle. The two perspectives not only moved the story forward in interesting ways, but also allowed the reader to see how Lavinia matures. The story is historical fiction and I think it did a good job of illustrating the difference between an indentured servant and a slave. Almost all of the characters were complex, but I wish we had a chance to unpack more of the complexity of some of the characters.