The Kitchen House
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads): When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
Review: This story about family relationships paints a dark picture of slavery in the south around the turn of the 19th century. While I loved reading about Lavinia and Mama Mae's extended family, the constant trials and tribulations faced by the slaves and the white women got a little depressing. I understand that the tragedies they faced were likely common during that time, but I wish something good had happened to someone, or that the story had ended with some hope. Lavinia was a little naive and weak, but perhaps that was a reflection of her lack of true family. And I found the narrations by Belle to be a little distracting. At the same time, I couldn't put the book down, and read eagerly to see what would happen next. I found myself caring deeply about the characters and appreciating the glimpse into life on a Southern plantation.
Rating: 4 stars (maybe 4.5 stars)