When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
I really liked this book, which was really surprising because I don’t often like literature set in the old South, books with passive protagonists, or plots that rely on people not telling each other stuff. So why did I read it? Book club, and I’m really glad I did, because I couldn’t put it down. The book grabbed me right away, and didn’t put me down until very close to the end where I found it a bit overwhelming. Too much happened in the last two chapters to get a firm grip on what happened, if that makes sense, but up until then, the pacing was good. The characters were very well developed, if frustrating at times, and the plot was great. If Southern historic literature is your thing, I recommend this and The Swan House