The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

When Author Kathleen Grissom and her husband restored a plantation tavern in Virginia.  While researching the history behind the area, Kathleen found an old map where a notation had been made on it…

Negro Hill.

When asking around about this, Kathleen found no answers other than that perhaps this marked a place of great tragedy. 

What could Negro Hill have been?  What had once happened on this very soil?  What secrets were left like whispers in the wind that time had absorbed?

This… was the beginning of the idea behind The Kitchen House.

Lavina is seven years old, white, and orphaned when she comes to live on the tobacco plantation owned by Captain Pyke, in Tidewater Virginia.  The year is 1791, and Lavina works alongside the African-American servants in the Kitchen House day after day.  Belle, who is the illegitimate half white daughter of the captain soon becomes good friends with Lavina. 

Lavina becomes close with all the African-American servants who work in the Kitchen House, referring to them as family and never understanding the privileges and status of white people over her friends. Throughout the years of the Kitchen House, Lavina is witness to abuse, rape, racism, and eventually.. murder.

As Lavina grows into a beautiful young woman, she agrees to marry the Captains son Marshall, but Lavina being only 17 when she marries is not yet wise to the ways of power-hungry men and soon discovers that Marshall will stop at nothing of for anyone to get what he wants, destroying lives in his wake…

In the end Lavina needs to figure out how to save the only family she has ever known from impending disaster. 

The Kitchen House is a book I have had my eye on for a while now.  I liked the look of it, the synopsis, and had heard good reviews, yet I never seemed to pick it up.  When I seen it on audible.com for a sale price I could not resist, I moved on it. 

The audio is told in alternating voices from the point of view of Lavina, and then Belle.  This made for a delectable story as Lavina was a young white girl who did not always see things as they truly were.  Belle could give a retelling of what was happening from an African-American slaves perspective.  By the book bring told in this way, as readers we are allowed to see things unfold from all angles. 

There is a lot of front information before the book really gets moving.  In the beginning you are witness to the fondness that not only Lavina has for the people of the kitchen house, but the love they have for her as well.  Through Belle’s telling, we see some of the white people for who they truly are, in full color descriptions, where Lavina may see things in more gray shades.  As the story gets moving, these shades of gray burst into full color as Lavina grows, marries, and starts to see how things really are.

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.  As events began to topple over one another I felt the story click together like a Rubik’s Cube and I loved the way it did! 

Author Kathleen Grissom offers up a recipe for a Molasses Cake that Belle makes frequently in the book.  While I have not made this myself, I believe I will soon as even mentioning it here is bring up scents of mouth-watering molasses baking in the kitchen…  (Offered up for Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads)

Simple Molasses Cake

½ cup butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
1 cup molasses
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 dashes ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and the molasses. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Add each of these alternately to the butter mixture, beating well between additions. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Amazon Rating

Good Reads Review

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading map has been updated to include The Kitchen House

I purchased this from audible.com

23 thoughts on “The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

  1. I have been curious about The Kitchen House because of the title but had no idea what it was about. Now that I do, it sounds like something I’d love and I would love it on audio. I really enjoy stories told from multiple points of view. The cake looks great. I’m a fan of spice cake.

  2. I’m thinking the book I read recently about President Madison’s slave who eventually got his freedom thanks to Daniel Webster would have been much better if it had been written as a novel. Hmmmm! This novel sounds very good.

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