The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is a very popular book! My friend Mindy recommended that I pick it up, and then the wonderful elementary teachers where I used to work are also reading it for their book club meeting today! Even though I’m far away from my Florida school, I was happy to be invited to join them digitally.
This novel is told from both the points of view of Lavinia and Belle, with the two women alternating chapters. Lavinia is an Irish orphan who is taken in as a servant by a wealthy white family. She ends up living with and working with the slaves that maintain the farm, working in the kitchen. To her, these women and men are her only family, and she is welcomed with open arms.
Belle is a black slave who takes Lavinia under her wing, becoming like a big sister to her. She has troubles of her own, being the mixed race daughter of the master of the home. Will Belle ever get her free papers? Does she even want them?
As Lavinia grows up, she is taken into the main house more often and accepted by the white family. Can Lavinia find a balance among the white and black people who mean so much to her, when in fact showing loyalty to the wrong people could bring her and those she loves immense trouble?
The Kitchen House was a fantastic read. It reminds me a little bit of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Both books have whites and blacks coming together in order to be friends, be a family, and try to solve problems while hitting severe resistance. Of course, the book is also very different. But if you enjoyed The Help, you will also enjoy The Kitchen House!
If you had to face the difficult choice of being free but having to leave your loved ones, possibly forever, what would you do?