Brooke Hargett's Reviews > The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
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Oct 03, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites

** spoiler alert ** I loved this book! I was swept right up into this story, with all of its twists and turns, captivated by the inner workings of the big house and the kitchen house and moved by the intricate relationships between everyone. I really couldn't put it down.

The plot was so interesting as it spans through the lifetime of this family, starting when Lavinia's parents die on the ship to America and she is separated from her brother. She is brought and adopted by the slaves of the Kitchen House and basically grows up as the white girl among these loving and hard working slaves.

I was so moved by Mama, who just embodied her title, just the right amount of firmness along with a whole lot of love. The family situation among them was so interesting to me- they all really took care of one another even if they weren't immediate family. I loved hearing how they would be so kind to one another 's children, or on the other hand give them a talking to if they needed it. They worked so hard and were so appreciative of the little things, It is so appalling that slavery was ever allowed to exist and this is just another testament to endurance and the human spirit. I love that Lavinia never sees them as anything other than her family. I especially love how she wouldn't call her Mama and Papa anything else until it is completely forced on her.

The amount of loss is staggering- so many hardships everyone had to endure on so many levels. One that sticks out to me as especially awful is when Jaime is taken from Belle. I can't even imagine having a child taken away. Not to mention all of the deaths (especially of the babies!!) throughout the book, or the defiling of the women. I just don't even know how people go on in the face of crisis that is depicted so common place here. Maybe they were strong because they had no other choice. Even from a young age Lavinia is taught not to cry and when to hide her emotion.

It was interesting to watch Lavinia grow up and eventually make it back to Tall Oaks. I could just feel her excitement upon arriving and the sinking devastation as she realizes her husband is not who she thought, and she isn't going to be able to help her family in the Kitchen House like she's wanted. I can't imagine how lonely she feels. You can see it coming when she starts drugging herself like her mother in law, and you want to stop her, but you can see how she gets to such a dark place.

Marshall's character is complex because of the abuse when he was young, and then the incident with his sister. I don't think I was ever clear on exactly what he was doing when he caused Sally's death. Why was he pushing her so hard?? The poor boy was so traumatized and then his father was never home and Rankin was such a horrible influence, and marshall always thought Belle was his dad's mistress! It was like the perfect storm to corrupt a young impressionable boy. And then he never can pull himself out of his vices. I felt so bad for Lavinia as she realizes just how mean Marshall can be. I kept wanting her to fight! But I could see how, especially at that time, she wouldn't feel like she could.

There were so many layers with this story- it seems like I could go on forever. This would be a great book for a book club because there is so much to discuss and so many controversial things that happen. It is an amazing book, not only the story itself, but it was beautifully written. The story of how the author came to write it is very interesting, if you haven't read about it on her website, you should.

The emotion of this book and the characters will stay with me for a long time. I recommend this book to anyone that wants a hearty, heartwarming and heart-wrenching story that depicts both the nastiness and loveliness of family. Loved this book!!
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