As is my custom, my first blog post of a new month is about what I read in the previous month.
The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
The first book I read in October was The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom. It was the most absorbing story I’ve read in quite a while. Set in Virginia in the 1790s, it opens with Lavinia, an 11-year-old orphan girl from Ireland who is relegated to the kitchen house on a plantation. The house slaves soon become the only family Lavinia knows.
Ms. Grissom did an excellent job developing all the characters in this her first novel. From the ship’s captain who owns the plantation, his drug-addicted wife, their son, the house slaves, some of the field slaves, the overseer, and a white neighbor, each of these main characters were carefully fleshed out by the author. There are many tangled relationships among this cast of characters. As the story unfolds, the reader learns that some relationships are not as they seem. As an adult plantation mistress, Lavinia learns that she is no more free than the slaves.
I highly recommend The Kitchen House. It’s a real page turner! It was the October selection by the Rocky River Readers Book Club. I’m so glad one of the club members recommended this work of historical fiction.
It is my understanding that Kathleen Grissom had not intended to write a sequel to The Kitchen House until her readers demanded to know what happened to the characters after that first book ended. What a great compliment for a first-time author! I look forward to reading the sequel, Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House.
Redemption Road, by John Hart
I also read Redemption Road, by North Carolina author John Hart. A much different read than The Kitchen House, reading this literary thriller took me a little out of my comfort zone. It took me a few pages to get into the book, but then I was hooked and I became intrigued to find out how each of the main characters found redemption. It was darker and contained more graphic violence than most books I read, but I’m trying to stretch myself this year and read books from some genres to which I don’t normally gravitate.
Redemption Road reminded me that every person has baggage. It forced me to think about the fact that we encounter individuals every day who are suffering in silence due to physical abuse or other secrets they harbor. We all seek acceptance and the approval of others on some level. If we’re lucky, we find redemption — which should not be confused with revenge. We need to be patient with one another and not so quick to judge, since we don’t know what emotional, physical, or mental burden another human being is living with.
The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
Reminiscent of Clara in the novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany, this historical novel is based on the lives of Albert Einstein and his first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Maric. She was a brilliant physicist and mathematician in her own right, but as the years went by she lived more and more in Albert’s shadow. In fact, she was more gifted in math than her famous husband, whom she met at university in Zurich, Switzerland. Since at least the 1990s, there has been speculation that Mitza Einstein had a bigger hand — perhaps even the major hand — in much of the work for which her husband was credited. Perhaps it was Mitza who formulated the Theory of Relativity, but in the early 1900s it was nearly impossible for a woman to be recognized for intellectual accomplishments.
Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray, by Dorothy Love
I read the first 11 chapters of Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray, by Dorothy Love before it had to be returned to the public library. I hope to get back to it soon. It is based on the relationship between Mrs. Robert E. Lee and a slave named Selina Norris Gray.
There are too many good books out there calling my name and too little time for this slow reader to get to them all.
Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you’re a writer, quality writing time.