Not long ago, I read The Kitchen House. It was a well-written book but a story without hope. You could feel the suffocating sadness from the beginning. The Invention of Wings is similar but with more hope.
Sue Monk Kidd tells the story of a young white girl named Sarah and Handful, the slave she is gifted on her eleventh birthday. Sarah is not your typical child. She is defiant and has thoughts and opinions of her own. However, she lacks the resolve to stand up for what she believes. Kidd weaves a tale of a young girl learning to stand up for what’s right and a slave who is just trying to find her way. Over 35 years, we watch Sarah fight her lack of confidence as she tries desperately to find a way to release Handful from her position. All the while, Handful watches her mother teach her how to make a point to their white owners, from stealing green satin to faking a leg injury. Handful is a huge part of bringing Sarah out of her quiet world and showing her what’s really going on in Charleston, South Carolina.
Sue Monk Kidd, who also wrote The Secret Life of Bees, does not disappoint. Her intricate writing style builds this story into a soon to be classic. Analyzing the relationship between a slave and her owner, Kidd touches on subjects that are still happening today.
Imagine your entire family gone. No memory of who you are or where you came from, and suddenly being pushed into a world you’re unfamiliar with.
Lavinia is a young girl who is in such a situation. Brought to a Virginian plantation by a captain who found her on a ship, alone and sick. She is placed in the kitchen house with a group of slaves who quickly become her family. But Lavinia isn’t used to the segregation and she doesn’t quite understand the nuances of her new place in the world.
With people like Mama Mae and twins, Fanny and Beattie, her world isn’t just loneliness and heartache. She makes her place in their world, not knowing that one day she’ll soon have to join a different crowd.
Kathleen Grissom brings to light the hardships of being a slave in the 18th century and how one child can change things for the better. The Kitchen House is a tremendous story with underlying tones of issues still going on today. A roller coaster ride of emotions, it’s incredibly difficult to put down. Grissom manages to give two sides to her story without drowning in details and getting lost in the timeline. Alternating chapters between the two main characters, Lavinia and Belle, make for a well-rounded book.
Be prepared if you choose to pick this book up. You will finish it and be emotionally exhausted. But you won’t regret adding this to your bookshelf!