Saturday, January 24, 2015
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The year is 1791. A young, red-haired, white Irish girl who has become indentured to James Pyke. She has been brought to a plantation called Twin Oaks, in Virginia, and is handed to Belle and Mama Mae to learn how to help in the kitchen house. The young girls' name is Lavinia, although she can has repressed her memory of who she is or where she came from.
Belle is a black/white woman who helps Lavinia adjust to her surroundings and becomes very much like a mother to her. There are many other slaves who fill Lavinia's new life, some older and some her own age and younger.
Eventually, Lavinia recalls the loss of her parents, immigrants from Ireland, who passed away on the trip over to the United States, She also had a brother, Cardigan, who was indentured elsewhere.
Lavinia becomes a true member of the family at the kitchen house and at the plantation. She is very shy and aims to please all who come in to her life.
The Pykes, James (Cap'n) and Miss Martha, have two very beautiful blond children, Marshall & Sally. Lavinia does not have much interaction with them, as they are the children of the manse. There are occasions when they are allowed to interact, and Lavinia loves both of them.
A master is hired for Marshall Pyke, and things aren't right with how he is treating Marshall. The slaves can see this, but Miss Martha is often in a drug-induced state of mind, with her use of laudanum. This happens because her husband is often away on business in Philadelphia. Cap'n has hired a manager, Rankin, who takes care of the plantation. Rankin is very mean-spirited and extremely prejudice about the indentured individuals working at Twin Oaks.
Lavinia's life takes on many changes. As she is white, she is treated differently than the black slaves, especially at church.
This novel is based on real events researched by the author and there are some very happy events, but also some horrible events. I really like the way Kathleen Grissom switches the chapters between Belle and Lavinia. It gives you a true sense of both sides of plantation life at Twin Oaks.