Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kitchen House

This month we shared The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, a historical fiction about an Irish orphan raised with the slaves in a plantation kitchen house in the old South.

Overall the group loved the book.  It was a real page turner with lots of action, drama, and emotional content.   But what a terrible time and place to be a woman!   Even the wealthiest white women had a serious lack of choices and power in this story.   It reminded everyone how hard change is to actually get into action...that for the dis-empowered, standing up to institutions can be mortally dangerous. 

Get Kindred from Sno-Isle LibrariesA suggested companion read for this book is the time-travel story Kindred by Octavia Butler, which is a good reminder of how even with contemporary attitudes and education, a woman brought back to this time would be in a hard place indeed.

Some of us also felt that Kitchen House was a reminder that we are losing the art of letter-writing, and the personal documentation that goes with this.  Without such letters Lady from Savannah (the Juliet Lowe story, recommended by Madeline), could never have been written.

There were some frustrations with the book.  How could Livinia be so naive?  How could she not know more than she did?  It seemed unrealistic.  Marshall's death was surprisingly violent, but at that point the author must have been ready to be well and done with him!  Rankin was so slimy and hateful...more of a caricature of a bad guy, or was he realistic for someone who would take on that job?

We debated if Marshall killed Lavinia's first fiance, who killed Rankin, and how could no one smell the tutor in the outhouse.   Also, would Lavinia have really transitioned from the kitchen house, to schooling, to living in a big house so easily?  It seems like there should have been more struggles in that process.

We really wanted for things to work out for poor Will, and were impressed by how Lucy developed as a character.

The last thing we discussed was how  institutionalization used to be so HUGE in America, with anyone blind, deaf, mentally ill or slow was simply locked away.  Dawn highly recommends The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon to get a feel for this sad era of our history.

As usual, the food was a delightful feast. 

Katie brought a delicious green salad with poached eggs, and wonderful fresh cherries.



Barbara  – cornbread 

Dawn – chicken


Newbie Jazmin blew us away with her  Pork Belly with Apples and Parsnips!

Katie W. –  fresh baked bread
Madeline -  Rice salad


Sonja – molasses cake  (thanks for the photo, Sonja!)

 Relish at Sno-Isle Libraries
Next month we are meeting Wednesday August 13 to discuss Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley, a graphic novel with all kinds of great recipes!

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