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on April 2, 2017
Slavery was unacceptable but happened. This story related so many aspects of how it could have been , some happy, sad, horrible, with questions and anger. You want to keep reading!
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on August 2, 2017
I recommend this book. First time that I have read anything from this author and got a great feel for the characters.
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on April 22, 2017
One of the best novels I have read...could not put this book down!!
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on March 1, 2017
Good item
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on July 31, 2017
Cannot put this book down! excellant.
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on October 29, 2016
A good readd
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Kathleen Grissom was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada even though she now lives in Virginia.  The Kitchen House tells the story of Irish orphan Lavinia McCarten whose parents have died on the voyage to the new world and, as they owed Captain Pyke for their passage, he puts Lavinia in the Kitchen House to earn her keep.  Belle, Mama Mae, her twins, Beattie and Fanny, Dory, and Papa George become her new family as she learns new ways of life on a Virginia Plantation.  The novel has two narrators, Lavinia and Belle, so some events are particular to the narrator —either flashbacks or unwitnessed by the other narrator — and some from a more mature and knowing point of view.

When Lavinia arrives at Tall Oaks she is 6 years old and has no memory.  Belle is in charge of the kitchen house and quickly becomes exasperated with Lavinia — who they all call Abinia — because she either won't eat or throws everything up and doesn't say 'boo'.  Mama Mae takes things in hand soon Abinia, Beattie, and Fanny are a threesome and Lavinia starts to feel like she has a family.  She meets Marshall (11) and Sally (4) from the big house but sees them rarely.  Because she starts out as a fairly timid little thing, she often sees things when others don't see her and she develops an empathy for Marshall who has acquired a loathsome tutor and is subjected to much abuse.  The other evil character in the story is the white overseer of the field hands, Rankin, who thinks he has full charge of the big house as well as the fields when the Captain is away.  Lady Martha, the captain's wife, leads a lonely life and becomes dependent on Lavinia and "little black drops" when the captain is gone.  She also suspects her husband of having an affair with Belle and transmits her hatred of Belle to Marshall.

This is a well-told, well-researched story of Lavinia's coming of age and coming to grips with racial hatred, entitlement, sexual harassment, and finding her true place.  To some, it may seem a old story told in a different way but to others, it will be fresh and poignant; we may feel we are familiar with the cruelty of slave conditions but it is a shame that should never be forgotten and the ending to this story is a triumph in ways to a new way of life for which many are still waiting.  It's worthwhile reading the bookclub questions and the interview with Kathleen at the back of the book as well as checking out the continuing story of Jamie Pyke in Glory Over Everything.  There is also an interesting video by the author talking about her books and research on YouTube.  A touching story woven through human adversity and a victory of the human spirit.
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on July 11, 2015
This was an interesting premise, and I enjoyed the story, particularly the slaves’ embracing of the orphaned indentured Irish girl (Lavinia, who came into their care at five years old). Here's an excerpt:

“Anyway, you can’t marry Ben. He cullad.”
“Fanny right about that,” Beattie agreed.
I began to cry. “I can marry Ben if I want to. You can’t make me be a white girl.” I tossed my wreath aside. “And you can’t make me live in the big house.”
Mama came to the door. “(Lavinia), that you cryin’? You nine years old and still cryin’ like a baby?”
“She wantin’ to marry Ben,” Fanny explained. “She not wantin’ to live in the big house, she not wantin’ to be a white girl.”

Unfortunately, the writing has a few flaws: repetition (as in the McGuffin of Belle’s freedom papers); the restated reminder over and over again that “he’s gonna sell us!”, and the narrative summaries (in place of showing us what is happening) in order to accelerate the passage of time. Here is an example of the latter that was especially aggravating: Now all grown up, Lavinia is understandably mute and passive. After all, she was virtually raised a slave. However, she is still the main character.

“...I felt more helpless than ever, and with each passing year, I burrowed deeper into oblivion...It (has been) five years that Sukey’s gone.”

A five year jump, wherein the story moves forward with the main character doing nothing!

Finally, the author committed a weird strategic (or unwitting) error toward the end, wherein Lavinia becomes less likeable, rather than more. Here are some examples of her behavior:

* Lavinia has an uncaring attitude about Belle’s emancipation papers; this could be life and death to Belle, who is dear to Lavinia, yet L acts like the papers aren't important. Ho hum. Another year or two out of Belle's life. Who cares? This did not make Lavinia a person worth rooting for.
* A scene from late in the book, where Lavinia is a grown woman: “That can’t be! You’re mistaken!” I shouted, and stomped my foot. (What is she, a 5-year-old?)
* Lavinia’s disregard toward her own child, evidenced repeatedly toward the end of the book.

Although those were negatives, the story, for the most part is well-researched and interesting, and the premise is fresh.
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on October 24, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was a page turner from the beginning and tugged at heart strings in many places. The characters were real and, like any good story, you hated to leave them when the last page was read. I couldn't seem to stop reading late into the night with this novel! I highly recommend it.
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on March 20, 2012
This book was a very good read. The author writes with detail that has you imagining exactly how the characters look and feel throughout the entire book. She manages to bring out emotion in the way she describes situations and events that happen in this book. It is a real page turner with twists & turns.
This book brings up tough issues with perspective to shed light on the history in the south. Great read and would recommend this to anyone who isn't disturbed by the subject matter.
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