The Kitchen House

 The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Lavinia McCarten, 6, arrives in America alone, her parents having died on the ship coming from Ireland. With no one to claim her, she is taken as an indentured servant by Captain Pyke of Tall Oaks tobacco plantation, to be raised in the kitchen house by Belle, the Captain's, illegitimate black daughter. Mama Mae, Papa, their children and the other slaves become "Abinia's" family, teaching her how things are done and how to conduct herself when working in the "big house". 

Two narrators, Lavinia and Belle, show us life from the perspectives of a black slave and a white servant. In the beginning their lives are much the same, but as Lavinia grows up her white skin will give her advantages Belle's family will never have. 

When the Captain's wife - Miss Martha - becomes ill and is moved to a hospital in Williamsburg, her sister takes Lavinia with them intending to make a lady of her and find her a husband. After one disasterous engagement is broken off, she begins a courtship with Marshall, the abused in childhhood and now violently disturbed, son of Captain Pyke. 

Marshall and Lavinia marry and return to Tall Oaks, where he has become owner and master after the death of his father. At home his true nature becomes clear and Lavinia begins to realize she is as much his property now as she was his father's as a servant, and there is no way out. 

The book has a large cast of characters and thankfully there are enough good people to make it possible to keep reading about the awful ones. It's a great story, well written, and I do recommend it. Any negative thoughts I have about it are because I've had about all I can take of powerful people doing horrible things to helpless people. Every book I pick up lately seems to be that, and with the news full of the same thing morning, noon and night, I've got to start reading about less deplorable things before I start to hate the whole human race. But, that is my problem, not the book's. 

These two narrators tell a story that, while heart-wrenching, is also tender and beautiful in its portrayal of family and friendship. A very good read.  


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