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The Kitchen House

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  168,175 Ratings  ·  15,096 Reviews
Library Edition

Gone with the Wind is turned upside down in this stunning debut novel of the antebellum South, a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call h

Audio, 9 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published January 1st 2010)
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ANITA MARIA I must admit, I grew up in the country and we in fact had an outhouse/privy. The smell was absolutely atrocious; therefore I can honestly see them…moreI must admit, I grew up in the country and we in fact had an outhouse/privy. The smell was absolutely atrocious; therefore I can honestly see them hiding a body in there and no-one noticed. I'll about to get graphic here...maggots were common in there, so the body very likely quickly deteriorated, in addition to the fecal matter, there wasn't much left. Back then pig pens were strategically placed close by, coupled with the smell of the pigs and the slop, the odor was greatly masked and became normal (if that smell actually ever becomes normal). (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Kathleen Grissom had the raw materials for a rich and powerful historical novel. Her writing is good, if a little drawn out at times. She has an interesting angle with the orphaned Irish immigrant girl put to work among the slaves. So why did it fall short? I think Grissom slipped too easily into stereotypes and melodrama and never got out of that rut. When you have too many tragic or shocking things happen to too many characters, it becomes predictable and numbs the reader. I started losing tra ...more
♥ Marlene♥
I had sorted this book as literature on my shelf well it is definitely not literature but more cheap sensational stuff based on stereotypes.

While reading this book this is what I wrote:
"I am not liking this book. It feels like the books I read when I was a teen and had nothing good to read. It is too much. Too much sorrow and everything goes wrong. Now she is going to make life changing decisions because of lack of communication. If there is something I dislike it is that in books.

I meant by tha
Gloria Bernal
Apr 18, 2010 Gloria Bernal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, especially history lovers
Recommended to Gloria by: Amazon
Shelves: favorites
An amazing first novel!

Author Kathleen Grissom's debut novel about slavery in the South in the late 1700's, early 1800's is one of the best out this year. This thought-provoking look at life on a tobacco plantation in that era both shocks us and draws us into the souls of these compelling characters, the white owners, the black slaves, and the little white girl who is brought in as an indentured servant, with whom we "experience" her growth into womanhood. Totally believable and thoroughly resea
Aug 17, 2010 Marleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing book! It deserves more than 5 stars. Truly, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning because I had to finish this story. It’s been ages since I have been that engrossed in a book, or that affected by a story for that matter. There aren’t words to describe the emotions you feel while reading this.
I have to give credit to the author’s wonderful talent for being able to render such an unvarnished, yet grippingly beautiful tale of life on a southern p
I really debated what rating to give this book. In terms of keeping me turning the pages, it was riveting, and I had a hard time putting it down. The story of Lavinia, the young Irish orphan who was raised by a family of plantation slaves, had me laughing and crying out loud at times.
My main problem with the book, however, was that the author never seemed to go past the plot and what was happening to the characters externally. Because of this, they often came across as a little shallow and unde
Pamela Huxtable
Jan 13, 2012 Pamela Huxtable rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pamela by: Awesome members book club
If books can be compared to movies, this is a Lifetime movie. Tragedy after tragedy occurs; we have unaknowledged illegitimate biracial children, sexual abuse of children,rape, sexual assault, drug use. And the author also puts in the particular tragedies of pre-Civil War Virginia, including abuse and murder of slaves, mistreatment of slaves, the breaking of families by slave owners, starvation and overworking of the slaves. Plus mental illness. Oh, there's incest, too. And did I mention spousal ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 19, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not recommended
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Most of my friends
I should have loved this; 1st novel, Canadian author, great reviews, southern historical fiction, I was stoked. Maybe that was my problem; overly high expectations the kiss of death. I'll attempt to explain why I rated it so low:

• Boring protagonist; weepy, passive women just irritate me now. I used to be more tolerant; I’ll put this down to aging...
• I read similar books when I was younger, nothing fresh here
• It's a pager turner but the plot was pretty obvious; good story that I wish hadn't m

Can you imagine being in such a frightful shock that you don’t know who you are or where you came from? Now imagine that scenario as an orphaned 7-year-old indentured servant, with an Irish accent unlike the thick southern one that you can barely understand that surrounds you.

This is the terrifying realization for Lavinia, who was thrust to work the house kitchen with other slaves in the late 1700’s in Virginia. Feeling isolated and confused, her fellow slaves open their arms to this sad girl,
Nov 07, 2015 Candi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set during the late 1700's, this was a very touching story about Lavinia, a young white girl who has tragically lost her family during a passage from Ireland to America, and her newly adopted family of slaves who all serve the ship's captain on his tobacco plantation. Working in the kitchen house, Lavinia forges a deep connection with Mama, Papa George, their children, Uncle, and Belle, the illegitimate daughter of the captain. As a young child, Lavinia recognizes no boundaries due to color; if ...more
Thing Two
Jan 09, 2013 Thing Two rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to Thing Two by: Book Club
To quote one of my book club mates, "This is just about the worst book I've ever read." I was so happy she'd said this, because it's about the same reaction I had to the drivel this woman published - and, yet it's been recommended to me by no fewer than seven people! Ack!

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Kathleen Grissom started with a great story idea - bring to life the tales of children sold into slavery or indentured servitude in 18th century Virginia whose country of origin was not Africa. In the hands of a more experienc
Sep 09, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am surprised by all the 4 & 5 star reviews. While the book is somewhat interesting, it falls flat and reeks of melodrama. It's like the Days of our Lives in the 18th century. The book is very repetitious with tragedy and crisis--you become numb to it after awhile. And yes, the characters are very 2 dimensional. I can't believe that Marshall would just become wholly evil. I expected to see a more complex character than that. All the white women in the book are weak and subdued; the black wo ...more
My hat is off to Kathleen Grissom for creating such a wonderful and moving story. I recently read 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett which I also highly recommend. I think the two novels compliment each other very nicely.

Lavinia, born in Ireland, is an indentured servant who comes to live at Tall Oaks tobacco plantation in southern Virginia in 1791. She is placed in the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter. Lavinia lives and works in the kitchen house along side the slaves on the plant
Mar 15, 2010 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Barb

On completion: Four stars! I know I really liked the book, but why, and what is it that prevents me from giving it five stars? You keep turning the pages, I kept wondering what is going to happen next? Yes, a lot does happen, and sometimes it does feel a bit melodramatic given all the shit that hits the fan. What happens does not feel impossible, but sometimes I found myself thinking that the Blacks absolutely never were as bad as the Whites. Let me say once again, the story does n
Jul 29, 2013 Gary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not going to waste time on a long review on this one.....My review can be summed up in "one word."

Ready for it?




My review for this book........ is....


By the end of this book I sooooooo wanted to put a few drops of laudanum in my drink, to take away the pain of it all!
Don't waste your time on this poorly written..... predictable.... I only stuck with it due to being a bookclub selection.......
Sep 15, 2011 Elyse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading "The Kitchen House", I often thought, "this must be the years best SOAP OPERA HISTORICAL FICTION novel of the year". Do they give out such awards? lol

Geeeeeee, you'd think the author could have had added a 'little' more drama to hold our interest?/! ha ha!

But.....YES, I liked this book! (most of the characters were well developed for the story). Maybe--the character of Marshall could have been developed a little more from his childhood to his adulthood ----(however, I got the poin
Jul 26, 2016 Poonam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
This is my Book Of the Month- August 2016, with GR group- Nothing But Reading Challenges- Category: Anything Goes BOM

This book was a challenging read for me because I found it overall distressing and depressing.

It was fine at the start but around 30% of the book you realize that everything that happens in the story is SAD. After that every-time I kept this book aside, I had to force myself to pick this up again. Another issue I had is the balant infidelity and casual take on sex. This is a pe
Jul 15, 2010 Daphne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book on the Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you Goodreads and Touchstone Fireside publishers. What a gift this book was. Not only did I LOVE the story, but I defy anyone to not care about these characters. From the beginning when you first meet seven year old Lavinia, an orphan first arriving in America from Ireland, all you want to do is hug her and find out where this story takes her. It is a story of the true meaning of family, sacrifice and loyalty. You will want to be a part of Ma ...more
I was recommended this book by Goodreads cuz I loved The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

There was a discrepancy between those books and this one though. THOSE books had not necessarily happy endings but at least they had hopeful endings. This one was just plain TRAGIC. I love my historical fiction novels and I KNOW most of history was sad, especially in the U.S. during slavery times, but I mean really???? Was all this misery really needed?!!! I'm not asking for flowers and sunshine and a Disney ending, but at least..
Aug 09, 2011 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Where do I begin on this review?

I read the author's note and interview immediately following the end of the book. In it she says that the "voices" she hears tell her "their story" and she writes it. She also said, "I tried on a number of occasions to change some of the events (those that I found profoundly disturbing), but the story would stop when I did that, so I forged ahead to write what was revealed."

There are not many professions where one can openly claim to do what "the voices" tell them
Mar 18, 2010 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 3/4th of the book was awesome. I loved the early story of Lavinia at the plantation and in Williamsburg. Later in the book the story has more downs than ups and can be somewhat depressing.
Of course, I think the author does a great job with portraying the time period, although since Historical Fiction is not one of my favorite genres, I had a hard time with some of the character's choices (although I would think looking at the time period were realistic responses).
Overall, it was a wo
This book takes a familiar topic -- southern, slave-holding plantation in the pre-Civil War era -- and adds a few twists. The first element that makes this book different than others which describe the same era, is that one of the main characters here is an orphaned white child who becomes an indentured slave alongside the African-Americans at the plantation. The second unique element of this book is a feminist look at the lack of power and rights any women (slave or free) had to control her own ...more
♡ Kim ♡
Feb 08, 2014 ♡ Kim ♡ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, 2016-challenge
Loved it!
Sep 06, 2011 Jana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt the story fell flat. Undeniably, several parts played to my emotions, as the main characters (slaves of a plantation and subservient women) were raped, murdered, emotionally harmed. However beyond these emotional ups and downs, the story didn't conclude much. (Perhaps that is an unfair criticism - as the lives of slaves were undoubtedly unsatisfying.) Also, the dual narration writing style seemed to be an effort to give a voice to two sides of the story - white and black - but I don't fee ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Kermit rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meh
I expected to love this book...through 300+ pages I waited to love this book.

I don't love this book. It is a hot mess.

Every possible mishap occurs for our not-remotely-plucky and utterly clueless Irish lass of a heroine, just to keep the plot plodding along. Her complete and utter inability to read a room or learn one darn thing about the time in which she is growing up is an obnoxious device to make the most insane things happen. Somehow they were not insane enough, though, because I guessed ev
Jan 25, 2014 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a spectacular read for me. There are few novels that I become so immersed in and this was one of them. The story is about a white slave girl who becomes part of the slave family in the late 1700's. It's about her growing up in the conflicting white black world and her confusion being pulled into both. It's about the relationships and loyalty that develop and the tragedies that arise during this time. I love Grissom's style of writing - story is told by both Lavinia the white slave and B ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Alexandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried at least three time while reading this. The tragedies just kept on coming. One after another after another. Kathleen Grissom sure knows how to make my heart race and keep my eyes glued to the page. The characters were so real to me, it was like they were my own family. I was happy for them when things went well and I was devastated beyond words when things didn't.
First off, let's start with the cast of characters. There's Mama Mae - the "big mama" of the kitchen house. She's the one eve
I typically don't mind reading books dealing with racial injustices. However, I did not enjoy reading this story surrounding the day to day lives of slaves and raising a white child named Lavina. My thoughts constantly drifted as the story was developing and in the back of my mind I thought Lavina is going to grow up and have Mama, Belle and the rest serving her. Although there wasn't much Lavinia could do to right injustices given the time and era, I was irritated by her naviety. She didn't rea ...more
Apr 23, 2011 Felice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes a writer can make melodrama hit the spot and sometimes the relentless piling on of horrifying situations, evil doers, innocents ill-used and sexual abuse become merely a laundry list of really, really bad luck. This is what happens in The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.

In 1791, seven year old Lavinia arrives in the U.S. She is an immigrant. Her parents died on the ship on the way over from Ireland (Not Good), she is separated from her brother (Bad), she is made an indentured servan
Jenny Q
Feb 09, 2010 Jenny Q rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book for its different perspective on plantation life, that of a white indentured servant, Lavinia, who doesn't fit in with the free whites or with the enslaved servants. The story gets off to a strong start with a glimpse of a tragedy to come, and the rest of the narrative leads the reader down a dark and emotional path toward that conclusion:

"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 try
A tragic tale of a young Irish girl who's childhood is forever changed by the death of her parents aboard a ship bound for America. Upon her arrival a prominent tobacco plantation owner purchases her along with other slaves to help work his plantation. Her young life was a happy one growing up with love and nurturing by the slaves who took her in as one of their own, and eventually became her secure and only family. Her budding years were spent with a prominent white family connected to the owne ...more
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Born Kathleen Doepker, I was privileged as a child to be raised in Annaheim, Saskatchewan, a hamlet on the plains of Canada. Although we lived in a small, tightly knit Roman Catholic community, I was fortunate to have parents who were open to other religions and cultures. Since television was not a luxury our household could afford, books were the windows that expanded my world.

Soon after Sister
More about Kathleen Grissom...

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“Could I be your girl, too?" I asked quickly.
The large, broad-shouldered man looked away before he answered. "Well, now," he said, as though he had given it deep thought, "I sure do think I would like that."
"But," I said, concerned that he hadn't noticed, "I don't look like your other girls."
"You mean because you white?"
I nodded.
"Abinia," he said, pointing toward the chickens, "you look at those birds. Some of them be brown, some of them be white and black. Do you think when they little chicks, those mamas and papas care about that?”
“[Y]et, I wondered why Marshall did not at least attempt a kiss. In many ways, his treatment of me reminded me of the way I had behaved toward the doll that Mamma Mae had given me as a child. I favored it so that I had refused myself of the joy of playing with it, daring to love it only with my eyes. But in doing so, I had denied myself its very purpose.” 31 likes
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