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The Kitchen House: A Novel

The Kitchen House: A Novel

4.3 1099
by Kathleen Grissom

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Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of the highly anticipated Glory Over Everything, established herself as a remarkable new talent with The Kitchen House, now a contemporary classic. In this gripping novel, a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate at a thriving plantation in Virginia in


Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of the highly anticipated Glory Over Everything, established herself as a remarkable new talent with The Kitchen House, now a contemporary classic. In this gripping novel, a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate at a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War.

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.

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.”
“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.”
“This book was fantastic. It was the wow book that I have been waiting for all year.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Unique and intriguing.”
“The endearing characters ingratiate themselves in your heart. . . . I most definitely recommend this book.”

Product Details

Publication date:
Deluxe Gift Edition Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Kitchen House



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.

Meet the Author

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. She is the author of The Kitchen House and most recently Glory Over Everything.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The Kitchen House 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1099 reviews.
readtillyoudrop More than 1 year ago
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!
retromom More than 1 year ago
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!
Typhoid More than 1 year ago
This book will change the way we think and act. Soulful, loving and historicaly accurate masterpeice. I can't wait to pass this down.
DrRita More than 1 year ago
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.
BLUEEYEBE More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
patfoxli More than 1 year ago
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.
Lynnmary57 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book with characters that you will be thinking about after you finish reading. I can't wait to see how the story continues in the next book, coming out on April 5.
avidreader12TJ More than 1 year ago
The kitchen house is one of those books that makes you hold your breath and not exhale until the very last page has been read. Grissom masterfully depicted what it must have been like during that era when slaves were bought and sold to the highest bidder, when there was such a thing as slave and master. The Kitchen House is about everything that is right and wrong with the world in which we live. Its about betrayal , family, loyalty, power, and unconditional love. The characters in this book were all very complex yet very believable characters, There is Marshall, a sweet young boy who was corrupted and neglected by several people in his young life making him into the monster he ultimately becomes, There is Belle, Mae, Lavinia, Mrs. Martha, Beatie and Frannie who were all very different women yet very similar, you either loved them or hated them, There was Cap'n who seemed to be the hero yet he may have been the anti-hero with so many unspoken secrets, I felt as though I were there experiencing the hardships as well as the happy times with them. Hats off to Grissom , to have been able to evoke so many different emotions from the reader was simply ingenious! This book definately has something for everyone. A Must Read For All.
hope hartley More than 1 year ago
U really must read
Jesi707 More than 1 year ago
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!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
NookerInAZ More than 1 year ago
This has a great story and mixes history in with fiction beautifully. You love and hate characters...cry and laugh as the story unfolds.
CherishD More than 1 year ago
Got this book as a Christmas gift and finished it in a couple days. It was well-written, but too sad...and just kept getting worse. The ending was very abrupt and a real letdown...like the author said, OK, I'm done, leaving a whole mess of loose ends. Would like to have given more stars....
Seaquine More than 1 year ago
Although the book has many characters that initially are difficult to keep straight, overall, I enjoyed the read. In the last few chapters, the characters mesh & the story becomes more vivid. I enjoyed the theme as it it takes a much different approach from many books written depicting that era.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT BOOK!! This is a very well written book which holds your attention throughout the entire book. It was very hard for me to put down. I love the way the chapters alternate between the characters telling about the events in their lives. Very emotional and heartfelt. This is one book you must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It reminded me a little of The Help. It is always interesting to me see the conflict that human beings have in treating others in a humane way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a pleasant, very true, story of life on a southern plantation during the late 1700's from the perspective of its slaves and indentured servants. Could not put this book down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story of a young girl who loses her family and comes to live with a new family of slaves, who embrace her as their own. She lives in two worlds, and has to try to fit into them both. I found this book hard to put down. It can be sad at times, and anger you at other times. I fell in love with all the characters, and was sorry to turn the last page. The book handles some pretty delicate and violent subjects in a gentle way as to not overshadow the story of family and caring.
kristen cohen More than 1 year ago
This book is so good I could not put it down. I cryed and felt so much pain and happiness at times, never knowing what would happen next. Great job!
Peggy Lafe More than 1 year ago
I ejoyed this book. Going to be one of my favorites.
strictlyaprincess More than 1 year ago
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!!!
UnlimitedChick More than 1 year ago
I must say really enjoyed this book. It was one that made u laugh and cry! It showed u family is not always by blood. This will go on my favorite list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It had all of the elements of a great work of historical fiction--complex character development, painting the scene back in another time, and attention to detail. I will definitely recommend this to friends.