written by Kathleen Grissom
Take everything you think you know about plantations in Virginia before the Civil War, slavery, color hierarchy, masters, mistresses, children, racial codes, and open your mind to a new and different story. Lavinia McCarten is seven-years–old when she is orphaned during passage from Ireland making her way to America. Lavinia McCarten is white and becomes an indentured servant at the kitchen house of the grand tobacco plantation. She is to live with the other slaves, black and mulatto, under the watchful eyes of Belle—the illegitimate slave daughter of the master.
Lavinia must spend her most formative years trying to make sense of lives and relationships between the Kitchen house and the very different kind of hierarchy in the Big house. Lives get sorted and sordid between the residents of both homes.
Secrets unfold and discoveries are made. Growing into womanhood, Lavinia finds herself wanting to stay with her “colored” family, but others have plans for to marry within her race as a white woman.
The Kitchen House will surprise and shock; you will feel open, raw emotions as well as the reserved and perhaps better contained survival reactions of all of the well-drawn characters in this finely-written story that will never quite leave you.
– Reviewed by Susan Graham