Thursday, June 30, 2022

Book Look: ‘The Kitchen House’ will haunt you

r “For the most part, Lavinia and Belle dictated the story to me. From the beginning, it became quite clear that if I tried to embellish or change their story, their narration would stop. When I withdrew, the story would continue. Their voices were quite distinct. Belle, who always felt grounded to me, certainly did not hold back with description, particularly of the rape. Lavinia, on the other hand, felt less stable, less able to cope; and at times it felt as though she was scarcely able to relate her horror.”rThis statement appears at the end of “The Kitchen House” in an interview with author Kathleen Grissom. It explains why this work of historical fiction haunted my dreams. It was dictated by ghosts! I should probably stop reading tragic books at night before I go to sleep.rLavinia, one of the voices the author heard, is a 7-year-old Irish girl when the story begins. She has arrived in a state of shock and cannot remember who she is or where she came from. The captain of the ship brings her to his plantation as an indentured servant after the death of her parents. Her life in the kitchen house under the care of Belle and her loving family of slaves is filled with confusion and fear as well as love and kindness. Later, as she is accepted into “white” society, she cannot understand her forced segregation from them. They have become her family.rBelle, the other voice dictating the story to Grissom, is a slave and the illegitimate daughter of the master of the plantation. Her view of life from the kitchen house is very different from Lavinia’s. She gives heart-rending descriptions of the treatment of slaves in the American south and the indignity of being owned as a piece of property.rHaving both women narrate the story allows the reader to view events from two very different perspectives. Although Lavinia is a servant, she is not a slave and she has a naive view of life. Belle is a strong woman who longs for freedom but fears separation from her family and those she loves.rThe characters, the story and the writing style all make “The Kitchen House” impossible to put down. When you start dreaming about the book at night – and you will – remember I warned you.

 

Chris Baird
Chris Bairdhttp://www.servedaily.com
Chris is a family man with a beautiful wife and four kids. Three Girls, One Boy. He enjoys playing basketball, being outdoors, and the old normal.
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