Lavinia McCarten was six years old when she was hoisted, starving, sick and near death from a ship that had sailed from Ireland to America. Having lost both of her parents on board the ship, Lavinia had to serve out the term of her parents’ service.* In the novel The Kitchen House Kathleen Grissom tells Lavinia’s heart-wrenching, loving, amazing story.
The ship’s owner, James Pyke sent her to work in his plantation’s Kitchen House with Belle, who knew first hand what it was like to be ripped from the only life you had ever known and sent to work there.
Caught up in a world where she didn’t really fit in, Lavinia’s new life took shape. Although she was white, she did not fit in at the “big house” of the plantation owners because she was a servant. She took her place as part of the family of slaves there.
Mama Mae, Papa George and Belle quickly took her in as one of their own. They loved her, They taught her. They nurtured her. They became her true family.
The children of the big house, Marshall and Sally also took notice of Lavinia. There was confusion from 4-year-old Sally because Lavinia was like her. Marshall was more careful to stand-off from her because of the influence of the plantation overseer’s hatred of slaves.
When, at age 14, Lavinia’s circumstances change drastically, she was in no way prepared for the way that her entire life was about to be turned completely and wholeheartedly upside down.
And when those changes occurred, Lavinia did not have any idea of how to manage the new life into which she had unknowingly chosen.
Ms. Grissom has succeeded in writing one of the best books I have ever read. It is beyond great. It will take you from exponentially happy to heartbreakingly sad and back again in a matter of a few pages.
Very rarely do I bring a book home and then take it back in to work with me. This book went everywhere with me so that I could open and read any time I had a moment. I did not want to do anything but listen to/read this book until I finished it.
If you have ever even considered a slight possibility that you may want to listen to a book on audio The Kitchen House should absolutely be your first pick! Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin do an outstanding job of bringing all of these characters to life. This is one of the audio books by which all other audio books should be judged.
There were even parts that I read that I chose to go back and listen to on the audio because I knew it would be so beautifully performed.
This book is now my favorite book of all time. (Actually, it is tied with To Kill a Mockingbird, because there is no greater than that, but this one is on the very same pedestal.) Considering the number of books I have read in my lifetime, that is really saying something!
Beautifully written, Grissom has an incredible way of turning phrases into works of art.
This is also a story that screams to be told, heard, and re-told.
*Before the American Civil War, it is estimated that more than 500,000 Irish men, women and children were sold as indentured servants. A very large number of those came to America and would work for 7-10 years before being released from their debt.