Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Kitchen House

Thanks to the Foxx for hosting a lovely BC. We started out with artichoke dip spread over crostini and pesto-topped hummus with sweet potato chips, courtesy of Logan's Run, followed by a fresh and delicious saute of shrimp, spinach and tomatoes, and polished off with a berry pie baked by Quakers in Idaho and lovingly transported by El Jefe 14 hours back to Cali in a cooler. An homage to our well-intentioned but ultimately futile Sun Valley BC.

The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom, cooked in at a meager 5.3. This was the story of an Irish girl named Lavinia ("Abinia" in the author's rendition of southern slave dialect) who was an indentured servant and was raised by the plantation slaves with whom she worked. On the positive side, several of us really got into this story (albeit after a slow start) and found it to be riveting enough to overcome the frankly depressing nature of the subject matter. Also, the characters were well developed and therefore interesting, even if not likeable. The detractors found the story to be overly dramatic-- the Maharani actually compared it to a telenovella-- with rape followed by beating followed by molestation followed by morphine abuse. Although these tragedies undoubtedly were all too commonplace in the sad and harsh world portrayed by The Kitchen House, our group felt that the novel was so packed with them that it dulled the effect on the reader. For example, one person mentioned that by the time Ben's ear got cut off, the gruesome incident came across as just one more violent act in a parade of horribles rather than a shocking scene that stopped the reader in her tracks. Some also simply didn't like Abinia: although she struggled with her place between the white and black worlds, she was a people pleaser and a weak character who didn't garner much sympathy. In fact, there was more discussion over Marshall, who suffered years of cruelty and molestation at the hands of his tutor and emerged a ruined and abusive man himself. The trauma of his childhood resulted in Marshall growing up to be more comfortable banding together with the diabolical slavemaster Rankin that with his own family members. Finally, Ms. K. felt that that the book was a "Roots" copycat-- not very original except for the indentured servant twist; a historically interesting theme but ultimately not enough to salvage the overall rating.

Admittedly, having real trouble figuring out what pictures to include....

Stay tuned for the recap of The Interestings! Until next time, read early and often.. xoej

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