The Heroine: Lavinia, an orphaned indentured servant from Ireland that ends up working in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation in 18th century Virginia. The story follows Lavinia through her childhood as the only white slave among a close-knit family of black servants that adopt her as their own. The issues of race and social class become prominent as Lavinia blossoms into a beautiful, caring and often tragically naive young woman, precariously straddling the line dividing her family and her place in society.
The Highs: Beautifully written, this book weaves an intricate web of sub-plots with perfect clarity and wonderful prose. The narration, split between Lavinia and Belle (a half-white slave that becomes Lavinia's caretaker), unravels quickly without any lulls in the action. This book immediately wraps you in and refuses to let you go. The Kitchen House has what I call "the domino effect": each event unfolds easily into the next, picking up the pace as the plot heads seamlessly towards the climax.
The diverse cast of characters are all portrayed with striking realism, from Miss Martha, the opium-addicted lady of the house, to Mama Mae, the matriarch of the servant quarters. Each character is in possession of their own personality, motives and values. I was shocked by how thoroughly each character is developed, unusual for a novel with such a large ensemble.
Rating: The Kitchen House earns nine opium drops out of ten.
Buy "The Kitchen House" on Amazon here
Connect with the author, Kathleen Grissom, here
Photo from Brits at Their Best