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The Kitchen House: A Novel

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Overview

Now available in hardcover for the first time?in this gripping New York Times bestseller and book club favorite, Kathleen Grissom brings to life a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War, where a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate.

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the ...

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The Kitchen House: A Novel

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Overview

Now available in hardcover for the first time—in this gripping New York Times bestseller and book club favorite, Kathleen Grissom brings to life a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War, where a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate.

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family.

In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.

Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.

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Editorial Reviews

Alice Walker
“I recommend The Kitchen House. This novel, like The Help, does important work.”
The Boston Globe
“A touching tale of oppressed women, black and white . . . [This novel] about love, survival, friendship, and loss in the antebellum South should not be missed.”
MInneapolis Star-Tribune
"Forget Gone with the Wind . . . a story that grabs the reader and demands to be devoured. Wow."
Durham Herald-Sun
“To say Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House is a page-turner wouldn’t do it justice . . . Grissom breaks away from the gate at a fast clip, the reader hanging on for the ride.”
Sacramento/San Francisco Book Review
“Tension lurks everywhere, propelling the story forward [and] ample amounts of drama . . . Captivates with its message of right and wrong, family, and hope.”
Wilmington Star-News
The Kitchen House combines a history lesson with a compulsively readable melodrama.’
Romantic Times Book Review
“Out of the ordinary.”
Bookreporter.com
“A gripping tale of the South during the days of slavery. . . . Kathleen Grissom’s first novel explores the well-known side of the dark world of slavery as well as the not-so-well-known world of white slavery, or indentured servitude. The book is written in a manner that is fast-paced and action packed, making it difficult to put down.”
bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club selectio Robert Morgan
“You will be thrilled by this intimate and surprising story that connects us with an unexpected corner of our history. Kathleen Grissom gives us a new and unforgettable perspective on slavery and families and human ties in the Old South, exploring the deepest mysteries of the past that help define who we are to this day.”
author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell Alice Randall
“Kathleen Grissom peers into the plantation romance through the eyes of a white indentured servant inhabiting the limbo land between slavery and freedom, providing a tale that provokes new empathy for all working and longing in The Kitchen House.”
mommysreading.wordpress.com
“This book was fantastic. It was the wow book that I have been waiting for all year.”
thisbookandicouldbefriends.com
“With its quick pace and well-drawn cast, The Kitchen House became one of only two books so far (the other being The Fellowship of the Ring) to catch such hold of me that I found myself sneaking it at work. . . . I found The Kitchen House to be a powerful, gripping debut novel that gives a real human face to the tragedies of yesterday that continue to trouble us today.”
bookaholicmom.blogspot.com
“Once you get involved in the story of Lavinia and Belle you will not want to put this book down. I enjoyed this book very much and I highly recommend it. Don’t read it too fast. You don’t want to miss one morsel of this book.”
thebluestockings.com
“This turned out to be exactly the book I needed to get me back into the reading groove. . . . The writing flowed so seamlessly that I can’t believe that this is Grissom’s first novel.”
readersrespite.blogspot.com
“Unique and intriguing.”
historical-fiction.com
“The endearing characters ingratiate themselves in your heart. . . . I most definitely recommend this book.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476790145
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 10/21/2014
  • Series: Deluxe Gift Edition Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 141,360
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Grissom

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Kathleen Grissom is now happily rooted in south-side Virginia, where she and her husband live in the plantation tavern they renovated. The Kitchen House is her first novel. You can visit her website at KathleenGrissom.com.

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Read an Excerpt

The Kitchen House


  • PROLOGUE

1810

Lavinia

THERE WAS A STRONG SMELL of smoke, and new fear fueled me. Now on the familiar path, I raced ahead, unmindful of my daughter behind me, trying to keep up. My legs were numb, unused to this speed, and my lungs felt as though they were scorched. I forbade myself to think I was too late and focused all my strength on moving toward home.

Foolishly, I misjudged, and meaning to take a shortcut to the stream, I swerved from the path to dash through the trees. To my horror, I found myself trapped.

I pulled to free my long blue skirts from the blackberry brambles that ensnared me. As I ripped my way out, Elly caught up to me. She attached herself to my arm, sobbing and trying to hold me back. Though a seven-year-old is no match for a grown woman, she fought fiercely, with strength fostered by her own terror. In my frenzy, I pushed her to the ground. She stared at me with disbelieving eyes.

“Stay here,” I begged, and raced back down the path until I reached the stream. I meant to cross over by stepping on the rocks in the shallow water, but I didn’t remove my shoes, which was a mistake. Halfway over, I slipped on the river stones, and with a splash, I fell. The cold water shocked me, and for a moment I sat stunned, water bubbling by, until I looked up and recognized our smokehouse on the other side of the stream. The gray building reminded me that I was close to home. I rose, my skirts soaked and heavy, and scrambled my way across the water by clinging to the jutting rocks.

At the base of the hill, I leaned forward to breathe, gasping for air. Somehow Elly had reached my side again, and this time she clung like a kitten to my wet skirts. I was terrified of what she might see, but it was too late now, so I grasped her hand, and together we crested the bluff. There, I froze. Elly saw it, too, and whimpered; her hand slipped from mine as she sat on the ground. I moved forward slowly, as though in a dream.

Our massive oak tree stood at the top of the hill, its lush green leaves shading the thick branch that bore the weight of the hanging body. I refused to look up again after I caught sight of the green headscarf and the handmade shoes that pointed down.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1043 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(609)

4 Star

(246)

3 Star

(105)

2 Star

(42)

1 Star

(41)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1047 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2010

    An incredible story with characters you will love and never forget.

    I purchased this book Friday night on my way home from work. I am usually a chapter a night reader; I started The Kitchen House Friday at midnight and read till 4:30am:
    I was awake at 8:30 and finish it.

    Grissom's writing creates such a colorful picture that you find yourself transported back in time. The characters are not just on the page, but are with you in such a way that you experience what they are experiencing. This is not a book that you merely read and put down, it stays with you. Papa George, Mama May, Belle and the host of other inhabitants of Tall Oaks pull you into their world and keep you hooked till the end.

    Though I normally don't read historical fiction I was brought in by it's haunting cover and after reading the prologue I couldn't put it down. I LOVED this book!

    46 out of 54 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Historical Read

    This story starts out with the prologue narrated by Lavinia. It depicts a horrible scene of a hanging. We know something bad has happened but we don't know why or to whom. The story then begins with Lavinia and Belle narrating alternating chapters. Lavinia is the young Irish girl who is orphaned on her family's journey to America and is taken in as an indentured servant by the ship's captain. Belle is a slave on the captain's plantation who also happens to be the daughter of the captain. Lavinia is sent to the kitchen house to be taken care of until the time that she can be of service. Lavinia becomes part of the family of Mama Mae, Papa George, Beattie, Fanny and Belle. The captain's family is pretty dysfunctional and plays a huge role in the lives of Lavinia and Belle. Lavinia eventually finds herself torn between two families and places in society. I like how the chapters alternate between Lavinia and Belle. The story flows beautifully between the two narrators. There is a lot going on in this book and I don't want to give the story line away. I think it is a story you have to experience and be surprised by. Trust me! It is a great story! There are times the story gets uncomfortable which makes it much more realistic feel than other books about the antebellum period. I could actually feel the fear of the characters at times. Once you get involved in the story of Lavinia and Belle you will not want to put this book down. I enjoyed this book very much and I highly recommend it. Don't read it too fast. You don't want to miss one morsel of this book. Kathleen Grissom does a fantastic job telling the story of The Kitchen House. I can't wait to read what she comes up with next!

    36 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2010

    Gritty, raw, powerful, passionate love story about human kind. The best historical fiction read I have ever had the pleasure of reading. This book is sure to become a classic.

    This book will change the way we think and act. Soulful, loving and historicaly accurate masterpeice. I can't wait to pass this down.

    27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Awesome!

    This is a wonderful book. I bought it and could not put it down until it was finished! It has a strong antebellum theme. The character development is full and the story moves at a nice pace. I would recommend this book for anyone. I love historical novels because you always learn and appreciate the people and the culture from that time period. The author researched this era extensively and it shows. Several times in the novel I had a hard time reading it because it was so real and true to the time period. This is one of those books that you wish you could pull the characters from your mind and meet them personally. This is a great read, one that you will not be sorry that you started! I sure hope the author writes a conclusion to this novel, I want to see what happens to Jamie and Sukey! Please.....

    14 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Compelling and unforgettable!

    Lavinia, a seven-year-old Irish orphaned girl, after her parents die on board ship, with a past so traumatic she is unable to remember it. She is placed as an indentured servant with black slaves in the kitchen house of a plantation around 1800. They become her parents, her family.
    Love, survival, friendship and loss will captivate you and the wonderful characters will remain in your heart long after reading it!

    Another Compelling and unforgettable one I'd like to recommend is EXPLOSION IN PARIS.

    12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Well worth the time to read

    This book was compared by some to "The Help," of which I have also read, and quite frankly, the only similarity between the two is the fact that both have main characters who come from different racial backgrounds -- that's it. Both books are well written and are worthy of reading. They are engaging and often times insightful. To compare the two books is like comparing apples to oranges, and I believe it does both authors an injustice. These books stand on their own and need no comparison. Read and enjoy.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    An Engaging and Interesting Story

    After beginning this book about a family with slaves in the late 18th century, I read it any time I had a spare minute. I found it interesting and gripping as I became involved with the lives of several families. I have recommended it to several of my friends and they also found it difficult to put down.
    In the future I will definitely look for other books by this author. I think this would be a good selection for a book club as it has several themes that could be discussed.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    MUST READ!!

    Listened to the audio format...such a great story! READ IT OR LISTEN~ the narrations were perfect, I just couldnt stop listening, really an amazing story. Wish I could find more books like this. Cant wait to see what she comes out with next... Dont miss this one!! :)

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    For the first 150 pages you will not want to put it down....

    it's the kind of novel that is written with such great care to detail that you feel you are at the plantation Tall Oaks and you know the characters personally. You can't wait to see what happens next, then...the title character, Lavinia, gets older. She becomes irritating with her "I just can't believe I didn't realize..." half-wit response to things happening right in front of her. Everyone else realizes it, but not poor, weak-minded Lavinia. But when that little bulb DOES go off and she just can't seem to be able to handle the truth of the situations, she has to retire to her bedroom, self-medicating with morphine & you are left wanting to scream "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? YOU & YOUR SCUMBAG HUSBAND OWN HUMAN BEINGS THAT HE BRUTALIZES, MENTALLY & PHYSICALLY, ON A DAILY BASIS & YOU FEEL THE NEED TO RETREAT!!?" One of the slaves put it best when she complained to another slave & more or less said that she couldn't believe that a FREE white woman was carrying on so much when she had so much to be glad about while the slave being brutally raped by the husband AND giving birth to his children still managed to see the beauty in life. I'm on page 260 of 360 & had to stop reading to write this I am getting so irritatingly PISSED!! The Author has about 100 more pages to turn Lavinia into something more than a weak, spineless, idiot of a young woman that stands around wringing her hands, crying (literally...A LOT!!!) about HER miserable circumstances whilst being served dinner by a slave girl with a black & blue face from the previous night's boxing match with the husband. I don't have high hopes here. Pathetic.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2011

    I loved this book!

    I learned so much history and the flavor of the old south during slavery, and how the slave owners of plantations and families can be in as much turmoil as the slave family.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2011

    Sooooooo good

    U really must read

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Entirely too Maudlin

    This novel could have been quite captivating and absorbing if it weren't maudlin. And the writing style seemed a bit amateurish. All in all, a disappointment.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2011

    Happy I read this one...

    This was a heavy read, but I really enjoyed it. It was really interesting to read a slave story from this fresh perspective. Seeing the story through the lens of a young, white indentured servant was something much different that I have seen before, and I found that refreshing in an odd way. It does hit you time and time again with one tragedy after another, so I wish there had been more to make us feel like there was reason for hope...but it's a piece of historical fiction that seems well-researched. Those who are from the south (specifically Virginia) or who have visited Colonial Williamsburg will particularly appreciate it. Worth reading.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2010

    historical novel...great read

    This has a great story and mixes history in with fiction beautifully. You love and hate characters...cry and laugh as the story unfolds.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Great Read

    This book told a beautiful story with great historical background about the resilience and survival of strong women against horrific odds. The characters were well developed and the story was thoroughly engaging from start to finish. One of the other readers in my group said: "I hated when it was over; I still wanted more." This is the ultimate tribute in my view.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Average easy read

    The first half of the book was going in the right direction but there were signs of poor story telling skills. The famous she said, he said and the other one said left me shaking my head. Somewhere in the middle the writting was leaving possible epic to cheap novel romance. The ending chapters felt rushed as if it was a different writer. This could have been so much better.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    Amazing

    This has to be one of the best books I've read this year. Rarely do I get so absorbed in a book that I can't put it down. This book however sucked me in! This book is not for the faint of heart. It is deep, emotional, sobering, and heartfelt. There has to be a movie! There has to be!!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Loved this book

    I ejoyed this book. Going to be one of my favorites.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Kitchen House.

    Characters are well written I fell in love with them. I loved this book!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Couldn't put it down

    This was a wonderful first novel. I purchsed the ebook format for my Nook and read the story in 12 hours I couldn't put it down. You get drawn into the story from the beginning and the twists don't stop until the end. Loved it.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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