Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House

Author: Kathleen Grissom
Genre: Historical Fiction (Slavery)
Type: Paperback
Pages: 370
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
First Published: April 5, 2016
First Line: "March 1830 Philadelphia - Robert's familiar rap on the door came as I was studying a miniature portrait of myself."

Book Description from GoodReads: A novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.

The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.

This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.

Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.

My Review: Long time readers of my blog may remember that I loved Kathleen Grissom's book, The Kitchen House when I read it back in January 2012.  It was a beautifully written emotional and gritty story about slavery.  It's also a book that I frequently suggest to friends, family and customers at the library where I work who want a riveting historical fiction read.

Well, Grissom has done it again. In Glory Over Everything, the sequel to The Kitchen House, Grissom brings back some of her beloved characters and weaves a new story that was even more riveting and hard to put down than the first book. I actually stayed up well after 1am to finish it.

Yes, I loved, loved, LOVED this book.

Glory Over Everything is a page-turner and has Grissom's captivating writing style and characters who seem to come to life before you. It follows the life of Jamie Pyke as he makes a new life in Philadelphia while trying to hide a secret that could destroy all that he has built.  When someone to whom he owes a large debt comes for his help Jamie realizes he must return to the south and face a very uncertain future with potentially dire consequences. The story is told once again via multiple narrators and is a fast-paced read that not only focuses on race, slavery and the Underground Railroad but also on family ties and how one’s upbringing continues to influence us.

While this is considered a sequel to The Kitchen House, and includes several characters from that book, it can also be read as a standalone.  But I think you'd be missing out if you didn't read The Kitchen House first. Reading the first book will give the reader a more in depth understanding of Jamie and some of the other characters' histories, the reasons for their actions and their deeply rooted fears. But for those of you who want to jump right into this book, Grissom explains enough of the background of these characters for the new-to-Grissom reader to grasp the older story lines.

The only issue that I had with this book is that there were some rather unlikely (and too convenient) ways some characters met up in the book.  Out of all the plantations in all the state Pan just happened to meet up with someone Jamie knew?  Not quite believable but I loved seeing some of the characters from The Kitchen House so much that I didn't dwell on it. 

Some reviews of The Kitchen House complained about the brutal descriptions of the abuse of slaves. (It was a brutal time and I personally like that Grissom didn't sugar-coat anything.) While Glory Over Everything still deals with slavery I didn't find it to have such vivid descriptions of what life was like as a slave compared to the first book. There are still some gritty scenes but Grissom focuses quite a bit on the intense fear of being thrown back into slavery that many free slaves struggled with on a daily basis.

The secondary characters all play pivotal roles in the plot and are each quite engaging with Jamie's butler, Robert, being my favourite.  Jamie himself was an okay character.  You witness his struggles and fears but I wasn't fond of his self-loathing and doubt.

With complex characters, a gripping and often intense plot and emotional scenes Glory Over Everything is one of my favourite books of 2016 so far.  It is filled with scenes of human endurance, strength, love, violence, betrayal, family loyalty, courage and the power of hope.  That's a whole lot of emotion wrapped up into one book but Grissom is a master at writing gripping novels featuring characters that stay with her readers long after the last page is turned.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Kathleen Grissom said...

Laurie, I am so happy that you enjoyed Glory Over Everything. The characters hold my heart as did those in The Kitchen House.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading this book-loved The Kitchen House!!
And Oh My Gosh...Kathleen Grissom left a comment!!!! :-)

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

How did I miss this comment?!?! Kathleen - thank you so much for commenting on my wee blog! You have made my day. Once again, you have written a book that completely engaged me from beginning to end. I will happily be singing its praises to family, friends and library patrons.

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