The Kitchen House: A Novel

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: 168,108
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 1.18 (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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