...after I woke, wedged between crates and bags, I was terror-stricken to discover that I did not know where I was, nor could I recall my name. I was frail after months of rough travel, and when the man lifted me from the wagon, I clung to his broad shoulders. He was having none of that and easily pulled my arms loose to set me down. I began to cry and reached back up for him, but he pushed me instead toward the old Negro male who was hurrying toward us.
“Jacob, take her,” the man said. “Give her to Belle. She’s hers for the kitchen.”
“Yes, Cap’n.” The old man kept his eyes low.
“James! James, you’re home!”
A woman’s call! Hopeful, I stared up at the enormous house in front of me. It was made of clapboard and painted white, and a wide porch framed the full length of the front. Towering columns circled with vines of green and violet wisteria stood on either side of the broad front steps, and the air was thick with the fragrance this early April morning.
“James, why didn’t you send word?” the woman sang out into the morning mist.
Hands on his hips, the man leaned back for a better view. “I warn you, wife. I’ve come home for you. Best come down before I come up.”
Above, at a window that appeared open to the floor, she laughed, a figure of white froth capped by billowing auburn hair. “Oh no, James. You stay away until you’ve been washed.”
“Mrs. Pyke. Prepare yourself,” he shouted, and bounded over the threshold. Inside, he continued to shatter the peace. “Where is everyone?” I heard him call. “I’m home!”
At a run, I began to follow, but the dark old man caught my arm and held me. When I fought him, he lifted me up, and I screamed in terror. Swiftly, he carried me to the back of the house. We were high on a hill, and out farther, lesser hills surrounded us. A horn blasted, frightening me further, and I began to hit at my captor. He shook me firmly. “You stop this now!” I stared at him, at his foreign dark brown skin that contrasted so with his white hair, and his dialect so strange that I scarcely understood. “What you fightin’ me for?” he asked. I was exhausted by it all and dropped my head on the man’s thin shoulder. He continued on to the kitchen house.
“Belle?” the old man called. “Belle?”
“Uncle Jacob? Come in,” a feminine voice called, and the wooden door creaked as he pushed it open with his foot.
Uncle Jacob slid me to my feet while a young woman came slowly down the stairs, then came forward, quickly tying a band of green calico around a thick braid of glossy black hair. Her large green eyes grew wide in disbelief as she took me in. I was comforted to see that she was not as foreign-looking as the man who had brought me to her, for though her light brown skin still differed from mine, her facial features more resembled my own.
Uncle Jacob spoke. “The cap’n send this chil’ to you. He say she for the kitchen house.”
“What’s that man thinking? Can’t he see she’s white?”
Copyright © 2010 by Kathleen Grissom
A debut novel of uncommon skill, Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House is a beautifully written, emotionally wrenching coming-of-age story—set on a Virginia plantation during the late 18th century—that sheds new perspective on an often forgotten part of our history.
It is 1790, and Lavinia, a 7-year-old girl, has just come off a ship from Ireland with no parents and no memory of her past. Taken to a tobacco plantation, she’s quickly put to work as an indentured servant, living with the kitchen house slaves under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter. Soon, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded with her new family, even though she realizes that she’s forever set apart by her white skin. But as time passes and she slowly gains acceptance into the big house, she finds herself caught in uncharted territory, straddling two very different worlds that neither trust nor understand the other. Marrying the master’s troubled son—and taking on the role of mistress—only makes things worse. Now, as her two worlds collide, long-standing loyalties are torn, hidden truths are laid bare and a shocking act of violence forever changes the deceptive peace of the plantation.
Hardcover Book : 384 pages
Publisher: Touchstone/Imp Simon & Schuster ( February 02, 2010 )
Item #: 12-815546
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.91inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Love History and could not put this book down the minute I started, therefore, I finished within the day. refreshing to see good new authors surface. glad I supported by purchasing.
This book captivated me from the first page. I couldn't put it down and read it in a day. Loved it! I'm looking forward to the next one from this author.
Great book....looking forward to more from Ms. Grissom.
Loved this book. Look forward to more from her. Have read all the Blue Ribbon books and not one was a disappointment.
Was a great book. Hope she writes a sequel.
Reviewer: Kathy C