I love to read, so I'm always open to suggestions for new books and authors, which is the main reason I still subscribe to both The Mystery Guild and The Literary Guild. A couple months ago, The Literary Guild sent me an email recommending THE KITCHEN HOUSE. I saved the email, but I didn't pay much attention to it at first. Then, a few weeks later, they sent me an email about an upcoming sale. I remembered the recommendation, went ahead and ordered THE KITCHEN HOUSE, and devoured it in a few days.
In 1791, a seven-year-old Irish orphan winds up on a Virginia tobacco plantation after her parents (who were indentured to the plantation owner) die on the ocean voyage and are buried at sea. After her traumatic trip - and her subsequent separation from her brother - Lavinia retreats into herself, refusing to eat or speak.
It is the love and support that she receives from a family of black slaves on the plantation that brings Lavinia around. Mama Mae reaches out first, coaxing the bird-like orphan's appetite and trust, but it is Belle - the kitchen house worker - whom Lavinia ties herself most tightly to.
The book's prologue opens in 1810 with Lavinia racing through the woods towards a fire, trailed by her own young daughter. Emerging from the woods, Lavinia is horrified by the sight of a black woman hanging from an old oak tree. Having come to love the slaves on the plantation as much as Lavinia does, I am plagued throughout the book by the knowledge that one of them will be murdered in the end.
THE KITCHEN HOUSE, a debut novel by Kathleen Grissom, is my favorite kind of story, and anyone who has read my other reviews could probably recite the criteria themselves: characters that are so well drawn you feel as if you've known them forever and miss them when they're gone, as well as a plot that continuely compels me to keep turning the pages, leaving a hole inside me when there are no more to turn.
I am so grateful The Literary Guild recommended this book. I hope you'll read it and feel the same way.