Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House
By, Kathleen Grissom
 Blackstone Audio, Inc.; MP3CD Unabridged edition (May 8, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1441761276
A Book Review By, Ginger Dawn Harman

I borrowed this audio version of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom from my local library after a book club member insisted that I listen to this novel. Books on CD are a must for me while organizing, pulling weeds in the garden or performing other quiet household tasks. After waiting several weeks for my turn on the list, I finally was able to enjoy the book.  Kathleen Grissom has written a heart capturing novel of the human condition on slavery without trying to reassure you that it will all be all right. The story started off strong and grabbed my interest right from the beginning.  The imagery of a Tidewater, Virginia tobacco plantation named Tall Oaks and owned by Capt. James Pyke, was rich in detail. 

Kathleen Grissom:  author of The Kitchen House
I had an immediate connection with the character Lavinia, who is Irish and almost seven. She is brought to the kitchen house by the Captain as an indentured servant. There she meets Mama Mae and Papa, the matriarch and patriarch of the house slaves. Lavinia soon meets the captain’s second wife, Martha, and their two children, Marshall and Sally. The story at this point begins to form with class differences, betrayal, scandal, and personal redemption.

 Kathleen Grissom is very talented with her emotional connections with the reader. I as a reader experienced the early sickness of Lavinia, an apprehension of Rankin, jealousy between the women, and the horrid discovery of who is hanging in the tree at the end of the novel. I was very touched during the scenes that Lavinia had with Martha in the “mad yard.”  Additionally I was affected, when Lavinia had a moment of insight as she stated,  

“I wondered why Marshall did not at least attempt a kiss. In many ways, his treatment of me reminded me of the way I had behaved toward the doll that Mamma Mae had given me as a child. I favored it so that I had refused myself of the joy of playing with it, daring to love it only with my eyes. But in doing so, I had denied myself its very purpose.”  

OrlaghCassidy and Bahni Turpin exemplify what makes a great audio book. It is for their narration of The Kitchen House that I have made this a five star instead of a four star book. Both have an authentic accent which adds to the historical era of this novel. A good accent is important because it pulls you even further into the story, adding dimension to both character and setting. Furthermore, there were no irregular gaps in time between sentences or chapters. Both readers were also masters at gender and age voicing. Several times throughout the recording were the voices of Marshall, Papa, Ben, and several younger children. To pull this off with plausibility and convey the words in an emotional balanced way is pure talent. 

Bahni Turpin
Orlagh Cassidy
“...but like Mama 
 say, sometimes we got to live it out before we learn.”
Kathleen Grissom,
The Kitchen House
I was disappointed with how the story did not bring any closure to the Madden Family, I wanted to know what happens to them and I wonder if this might come about in a sequel or another novel by the author. Moreover, I was flabbergasted that this was a debut novel.  I look forward to what the author will be writing next and will purchase her next novel. I can understand now why there is a wait list at our library for others to listen. I highly recommend the audio version of The Kitchen House by KathleenGrissom.


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