25 February 2011

Kathleen Grissom. The Kitchen House. New York: Touchstone, 2010.

Lavinia, an Irish girl orphaned on her family’s voyage to America, is taken in as an indentured servant at Tall Oaks, a plantation in Southside Virginia, in 1791. With no memory of her previous life, Lavinia becomes attached to the plantation’s slaves, making them her makeshift family. Over the next few years, Lavinia witnesses the injustices the slaves endure, and they enrage her. She has no real concept of plantation society, although she understands that she is afforded more opportunities, such as learning how to read, because she is white.

As a teenager, Lavinia is given her free papers and is sent to live in Williamsburg with family members of the plantation owners. Once there, she receives a more formal education, but she misses Tall Oaks and her family in the kitchen house. When her former owner’s son, Marshall, proposes marriage to Lavinia, she happily accepts.
Life back on the plantation, however, has changed. As a married adult, Lavinia is no longer able to continue the relationships she once shared with the slaves. Marshall, now the owner, is especially steeped in his ways of running the plantation, and he forbids it. He abuses alcohol, and in fiery rages abuses his slaves and mistreats his wife. As Lavinia becomes desperate for her loved ones, she is forced to choose between slavery and gentry, two worlds she has straddled all of her life.

Find The Kitchen House in the Charlotte County Library catalog.

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