In The Kitchen House, Kathleen
Grissom came up with a different angle for a pre–Civil War story about
slavery, adding the servitude of indentured whites to the well-known
servitude of blacks. An indentured white girl grows up with the black
slaves, considering them her family. She later marries the son of the
master and faces a crisis of allegiances.
Grissom deserves credit for that original angle and for writing a brisk-paced tale with likable heroes. It does have its failings, however. There is nothing surprising in Grissom’s formulaic accounts of slavery. Protagonist Lavinia is too naive to be believable. The good characters are all black, and the bad characters are all white.
Still, The Kitchen House became a word-of-mouth recommendation. Eighteen months after publications, it hit the New York Times bestseller list at number 20.
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