Book Club: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Welcome once again to the More Than Mommies Book Club Recap!
Looking back in the archives, it seems like it has been such a long time since we have posted a recap since we took a break over  the holidays. But I am ready to resume the action in 2013 and I am very pleased with our first selection of the year.
I hope you took some time to read:
Because Janene and I both had prior commitments we couldn’t attend our regularly scheduled meeting this past Monday,  and I really missed the wonderful ladies who gather to discuss our selections each month. To read more about how we got our start together check out “Book Club Saved My Life”.
I have to send a shout out to my friend Norma, who attended and led the discussion this month, for providing a recap of the meeting that we could share on the blog.
Those in attendance loved this book and many ranked it among their favorites. I agree that the book was a page turning read. These characters endured so much and Grissom paints a vivid picture of what life might have been like for slaves and indentured servants alike. She also painted a picture of the hypocritical racism and abuse that they endured. Many of the passages were difficult to read and I am sure they must have been difficult to write, but Kathleen Grissom felt compelled to tell her characters’ stories as authentically as possible.
We learn that the author was inspired after finding a map during a renovation of an old plantation tavern. An interesting writing process indeed: “…I feel I was guided but also that I was gifted with their [residents of the past] trust…” Grissom mentions that she let her characters provide their own narratives. She admits to trying to change their stories to suit her tastes. However, finding that when she tried to do that her inspiration would run dry, she would be forced to come back to the story that she was meant to tell. Her novel has a truly authentic feel to it and I think Grissom’s acting as “writer and medium” is one of the reasons why. 
I’ve chosen three questions from the guide at the end of our book. Please consider, and if you wish, join in the discussion of the book. In addition to your answers, we would also love to hear your review of the book in our comments section:
  1. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story through two narrators? How are Lavinia’s observations and judgments different from Belle’s? Does this story belong to one more than the other? If you could choose another character to narrate the novel, who would it be?
  2. Marshall is a complicated character. At times, he is kind and protective; other times, he is a violent monster. What is the secret that Marshall is forced to keep? Is he to blame for what happened to Sally? Why do you think Marshall is loyal to Rankin, who was a conspirator with Mr. Waters?
  3. “I was as enslaved as all the others”. Do you think this statement by Lavinia is fair? Is her position equivalent to those of the slaves? What freedom does she have that the slaves do not? What burdens does her race put upon her?
Please share your thoughts.
Are you ready to pick up the next book?  For February we will be reading: 
You can purchase this selection from the Kindle Store simply by clicking on the image above. We will also have both the kindle version and the hard copy for purchase in the More than Mommies Store under More than Mommies Bookclub. There you can also peruse the selections from the past year. If you are looking for something to read, we have you covered! 
It’s a short month, so I am diving into Anna Quindlen’s: Blessings right now. I hope you will join us.

Happy Reading,

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  1. Meredith says

    This book was fantastic–a true page-turner for me. And this is exactly why I love book clubs. I would never have picked this up on my own, but I loved it. Great pick, ladies1 Off to reserve next month’s!

  2. Shay Trashay says

    My book club read this a few months ago and all agreed that I should probably stay away from it. Although I seem snarky and heartless on my blog, I’m actually a pretty tender-hearted person. So I didn’t read it, but they all LOVED it. The next book on my list is City of Women by David R. Gillham. I am addicted to books, which is great, because we have the best library and used book store in my town. When my husband complains at me for bringing yet another book home for our already-way-too-full bookshelf (can they ever be too full?), I always say, “There are worse addictions!” Wouldn’t you agree? :)

  3. Jayme says

    I loved this book and agree with Meredith…that’s why I love book club because I would have never picked it up otherwise.

    I commented on your FB page saying how much I hated the ending. I guess hate is a harsh word…maybe? I’ve read many books where I didn’t like the ending, where I would have liked to have learned more about what happened next, or didn’t like that it didn’t have a fairytale ending, etc. This one was different though.

    As I said before, I really liked this book…couldn’t hardly put it down. Many people commented at book club, and I agreed, that the author did such a good job with character detail. I guess you could say I got a little too caught up in them, so when the ending started getting so harsh…beatings, rape, neglect, and so on, I just took it a little personal. Haha! Really! I had to put it down several times because I didn’t want to know anymore. I had to remind myself that it was just a book and that I didn’t actually know these people.

    I don’t know why but I guess I thought that Marshall’s behavior had changed when he went away or that he had enough feelings for Lavinia that he would treat her right. As a person who has lived one thing but changed life around so that history didn’t have to repeat itself, I was ticked to see it happening with Marshall (as Captain) and Lavinia (as Miss Martha). It was just infuriating to me! I felt like they should have known better. I never would have guessed that the storyline between Ben, Lucy and Bella would have been the uplifting part of the ending.

    Alas, I have come back to reality and understand it was just a story…a well written one that got me all wrapped up. :) I didn’t hate the ending in a way that means I would never recommend this book to anyone. I just painted a different picture in my head and was disappointed that it was FAR from it.

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