Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

On a slave plantation there is a huge difference between a house slave and a field slave.  The Kitchen House shows the stark reality between slaves, indentured servants and their masters.  This story is not sugar coated, as Grissom presents a harrowing ordeal that was the reality of many slaves in the 18th century.  

Lavinia is a small child making her way from Ireland to the United States when her parents die on the passage over, having not paid their fee to the captain.  The captain takes Lavinia as his indentured servant to serve for a period of seven years to pay for her families passage.  She is adopted by the slave family that runs the kitchen house and blends into the family.  Lavinia is forced to straddle two entirely different worlds and is torn between her white family and her black family.  This is a very powerful storyline.

I had a hard time reading about the mis-treatment of the slaves and repeated rapes many women endured.  I was turned off by the violence but then I had to remind myself that this is their story and just because it is hard to read doesn't mean it shouldn't be read.  Grissom states in her author notes that whenever she tried to change or delete some of the difficult scenes from the story, the story would stop.  So she continued to write it as it was revealed to her.  I found that very profound. I believe that some stories deserve to be told and God bless the souls who told it to her.

The Kitchen House takes place in Virginia at the turn of the 19th century and is a well-researched, unpredictable historical novel.  The storyline is unique and the characters are so lovable, well not all of them, some are downright nasty.

Belle works in the kitchen house with Mama and together they cook up good food, safety, love and hold the secrets of the big house close by.  If you get a chance to walk to the kitchen house,  you will find hope there.  Say Hello to all you pass on the way.

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