The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
A Novel

76%

46 Critic Reviews

Melodramatic for sure, but the author manages to avoid stereotypes while maintaining a brisk pace.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

In this gripping New York Times bestseller, Kathleen Grissom brings to life a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War, where a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate.

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.
 

About Kathleen Grissom

See more books from this 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. The Kitchen House is her first novel. You can visit her website at KathleenGrissom.com.
 
Published January 16, 2010 by Touchstone. 385 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Mar 20 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for The Kitchen House
All: 46 | Positive: 33 | Negative: 13

Kirkus

Good
on Dec 15 2009

Melodramatic for sure, but the author manages to avoid stereotypes while maintaining a brisk pace.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Nov 09 2009

The plantation’s social order’s emphasis on violence, love, power, and corruption provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Nov 09 2009

The plantation’s social order’s emphasis on violence, love, power, and corruption provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion.

Read Full Review of The Kitchen House: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by JUDY ROMANOWICH SMITH on Apr 04 2010

Grissom has created a cast of characters you will care deeply about. This book will not disappoint.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Christine Irvin on Jan 22 2011

The book is written in a manner that is fast paced and action packed, making it difficult to put down.

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Rachelmarjne on Aug 23 2012

All in all, I can't wait to read another of Grissom's books, and I have highly recommended it to friends and family.

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Boston.com

Above average
Reviewed by Nancy Harris on Apr 15 2012

If I had to speculate on why the book is popular in this area, I’d say that it’s because women here feel such freedom and privilege that they are intrigued by a time and place that’s so different from our own.

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The New Zealand Herald

Above average
Reviewed by Carroll du Chateau on Aug 03 2013

Sometimes her plot is too predictably signalled. On the other hand, her writing is evocative. The day-to-day details of slaves, women and children living harassed lives under the rule of white plantation owners of the 1790s, is so believable you can almost smell the slaughter on hog-killing day.

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Women's Inc.

Good
Reviewed by Susan O’Keefe on Mar 24 2016

“The Kitchen House” peeks into a corner of our country’s history and delivers a truthful account of a somewhat obscure scene. It’s a truth resonating through the Old South, and a story that deserves to be read.

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Murphreesboro Pulse

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle Palmer on Jul 03 2013

Grissom is unflinching in her portrayal of the Deep South in the early 19th century. Her writing is proof of the tremendous research Grissom did to ensure that historical references were accurate. Where Grissom sometimes falls short is in the story line...

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The Copperfield Review

Good
Reviewed by Nancy Anne Brayburn on May 02 2012

In this story we see how life has dealt these characters a bad hand, and yet they strive to form community and family despite it all. That lesson alone is worth the price of this book.

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Curled Up

Above average
Reviewed by Luan Gaines on Mar 24 2016

Grissom’s tale is especially poignant from the perspective of two protagonists: Lavinia and Belle, the Captain’s daughter, who remains a constant source of rage to his wife, Martha.

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Booking Mama

Good
Reviewed by Julie P. on Sep 05 2010

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying this, but I think everyone in your group will find something to love in this novel. The author has also included a recipe for Molasses Cake in the back of the book which would be perfect to serve for dessert!

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That's What She Read

Excellent
Reviewed by Michelle on Apr 09 2010

This truly was an outstanding novel, one I will be recommending to as many people as possible, particularly those interested in historical fiction or anyone wanting to learn more about slavery and indentures.

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Before It's News

Good
on May 01 2013

All in all, I was captivated by the story and pulled right into its world. I found the historical backdrop fascinating, but I was also drawn into the fictional world of these characters and came to care about them (except the ones I hated!).

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A Bookworm's World

Excellent
Reviewed by Luanne on Jun 04 2010

Slavery is a main theme of the book. But slavery in many different forms - addictions, societal expectations and mores as well as racial. But so is strength, again in many forms. I literally could not put The Kitchen House down. It's destined to be a keeper in my library.

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Devourer of Books

Above average
on Dec 20 2010

Grissom handled the dual narrators well, however. Belle was able to show the reader things that Lavinia could not know, but was given enough depth and emotion that her narration did not seem just a cheap plot device, but actually enhanced the story being told.

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Novelicious

Good
Reviewed by Debs Carr on May 16 2013

I think The Kitchen House would make a wonderful film; the author's love of the plantation is evident and it emanates throughout the story almost becoming one of the characters. This book has already been very successful in America and I can see why. I loved it and could imagine wanting to read it again at some point.

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Parental Book Reviews

Good
on Mar 28 2016

So, after finishing reading this book, i recommend to readers to not underestimate this great book. you should take this book as your reading list or you will be regret because you have not reading it yet.

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Book Journey

Above average
Reviewed by Sheila on Dec 10 2011

While I found the first half of this audio interesting, it was not until the second half that the story really takes off and you get a full understanding of all the details laid out in the earlier part of the book.

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Literate Housewife

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer on Feb 13 2010

The Kitchen House brought me out of a reading slump as if it never existed and reignited my interest in American historical fiction. There is so much that has happened just outside my own back door.

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Reading for Sanity

Good
Reviewed by Heather on Jan 27 2011

Buried inside this story is a powerful message of love's ability to cross racial boundaries and create unbreakable ties. There is a moral regarding honor and standing up for what is just.

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Quill & Quire

Below average
on Mar 28 2016

Though there are several compelling insights in The Kitchen House, it’s nevertheless a formulaic story. There are graphic shocks, but no surprises.

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The Book Stop

Above average
Reviewed by curlygeek04 on Jul 24 2011

For a first novel, this one has some faults but it was also a really interesting read with vivid characters and one that really drew me into the lives of the characters.

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Impressions In Ink

Good
Reviewed by Annette on Apr 12 2012

This is a well-written story. It is a page turner, never a dull paragraph, emotionally gripping, and by the end I was nearly gasping for a break so I could take a deep breath.

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Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Sharon Galligar Chance on Mar 26 2011

This is a powerful story that shows a side of slavery that is rarely mentioned - that there were white slaves as well as blacks before the Civil War. Lavinia is a courageous character, enduring unimaginable hardships, but she remains strong to the very end of the story. I highly recommend this book.

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Caribous Mom

Above average
Reviewed by Wendy on Nov 06 2011

Despite an interesting premise, I felt the novel did not deliver emotionally. Belle’s and Lavinia’s voices are well-scripted, yet I felt a remove from the characters which was hard to explain.

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The Bluestocking Society

Above average
Reviewed by Jessica Anderson on Mar 01 2010

My only major complaint about this book is that there are about 300 pages of set up for about 50 pages of climax and resolution. I was so involved in the characters that it was very disappointing to have the action begin and add so abruptly. Despite the pacing issues, this is a tremendous book that I highly recommend.

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Confessions of a Bibliophile

Good
Reviewed by Jaime on Feb 24 2010

Overall, I thought this book gave us a unique point of view of slavery and life on a plantation, and it felt authentic for the time period and location...

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The Brunette Librarian

Good
Reviewed by The Brunette Librarian on Sep 06 2012

Ultimately, “The Kitchen House” is a heartbreaking story of two women, at times helpless and confused, and yet fearless in approaching life at full force. This one will leave you mad, sad, angry, but finally full of hope for these characters and their futures.

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Having Said That

Good
Reviewed by HEATHER HEIMBAUGH on May 28 2013

This is one of the better books I have read about slavery. In making the narrator a displaced Irish girl, the novel looks at slavery from a slightly different perspective, as someone who is caught in limbo between the two worlds, knowing she belongs in both but often feeling as though she doesn’t fully belong to either.

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Lovely Treez Reads

Good
on Feb 27 2013

There is quite a lot of misery but nevertheless this is an extremely readable, compelling story. I’m not sure if I would put it on a par with The Help as that was a more character-driven novel and there were moments of humour to alleviate the gloom but it is an impressive debut and a definite page-turner.

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Shelah Books It

Good
Reviewed by Shelah on Nov 21 2011

While the book was beautifully written and wonderfully narrated (that Orlagh Cassidy! I have such a crush on her!), and now that it's done, I'm left with two impressions...this book would have been a 10/10, but it broke my number one cardinal rule for fiction...

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Linus's Blanket

Good
on Jun 01 2010

I love that this novel is going to be offering a different perspective on a time in United States history that is marked by tragedy and cruelty. Jennifer also notes that this will be a great book for a book club discussion.

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Small World Reads Blog

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Small on Oct 15 2011

I know. It sounds like a "been there, done that" kind of novel. The plot line I've given merely scratches the surface. There is nothing sentimental or trite about this novel. Grissom is a master storyteller.

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Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Good
Reviewed by DRBETHNOLAN on Jan 19 2011

If you love historical fiction, you will probably love “The Kitchen House” as much as I did – though I should warn you that the word TRAGEDY is appropriate for it.

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My Book Retreat

Below average
Reviewed by Julie on Nov 21 2010

...Grissom went too far with the tragedies in this story. Slavery, abuse (spousal, child and slave), torture, murder, alcoholism, drug addition, incest, accidental death, rape, and on and on.

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Raging Bibliomania

Excellent
Reviewed by Zibilee on May 05 2010

The characters are easily some of the most unforgettable that I have come across and I quickly found myself caught up in their difficult plights. I was sad to see the book end...A gorgeous and generous read, highly recommended!

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Sincerely Stacie

Good
Reviewed by Stacie on Feb 07 2013

As the story comes to a close, you will be sitting on the edge of your seat, reading the words and flipping the pages just as fast as you can to find out what will become of the characters. If you are easily emotional, keep tissues close by.

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https://thebookstop.wordpress.com

Below average
Reviewed by curlygeek04 on Jul 24 2011

I also felt that the scenes toward the end of the book felt a little forced, like the writer needed a bunch of action and a plot device to tie things together. For a first novel, this one has some faults but it was also a really interesting read...

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Southern Girl Reads

Excellent
Reviewed by Lisa on Feb 27 2011

I found the story of THE KITCHEN HOUSE perfectly paced and although Grissom doesn't rely on actual historical detail of the times, you get a real sense of what life must have been like growing up as a slave and being completely dependent on the slave owner.

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Burton Book Review

Excellent
on Mar 26 2010

This book took over my soul.. and I could not put it down until I finished with it. No kidding. I stopped for potty breaks and to avert the kiddos from sudden disaster, and I read. I inhaled it. It devoured me.

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https://drbethnolan.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by DRBETHNOLAN on Jan 19 2016

If you love historical fiction, you will probably love “The Kitchen House” as much as I did – though I should warn you that the word TRAGEDY is appropriate for it.

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Our Book Reviews Online

Good
Reviewed by Maryom on Mar 15 2013

Perhaps because Lavinia spends more time among them, the black slaves are the better drawn, more individual characters - the wealthy whites fall more into stereotypes of good or bad owners and overseers.

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Lit Witch

Above average
Reviewed by The Lit Witch on Sep 21 2012

While there are stock characterizations throughout the story does hold one’s attention as the conflict between good and evil, slaves and owners, and even love and hatred come together for a big finale.

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The Magic Lasso

Above average
on Sep 10 2011

I found the first half of the book to drag on, the middle to be gripping, and the ending to be rushed. Lavinia’s story, though, interested me enough to urge me forward.

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Reader Rating for The Kitchen House
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 6676 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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