Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House

Kathleen Grissom

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 5, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1476748446


Description from the Publisher

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.

Literary Apothecary Review

It has been six years since the publication of The Kitchen House, where light was shed on Tall Oakes.  After his escape, James has started a life under the guise only he can understand and explain. As only a skilled storyteller can do, Grissom has kept the tension going with a story impossible to put down.

Easy to read, fast-paced fictional story with historical locations and references.

A fair-skinned James Pyke Burton, choosing to identify as white, in spite of his heritage, makes a poor decision to hold on to a letter, which takes his life on the very path he worked tirelessly to avoid.
The main characters of the story are James and Pan, with minor characters supporting the story. The plot, following traditional dramatic structure, begins to rise after a spiteful maid steals a letter, seeking blackmail, only to resurface and share the details with the prominent family of his lover and James is forced to leave his home. Taking place between 1811 and 1830, the story unfolds and covers the trials faced as a result of the letter’s contents.

This book brings to mind the series Alex Haley’s Queen.  While the events leading to their conception differ greatly, each chose to try “passing”.  For Queen, it did not end well, as she told on herself.  James decided to hold on to a letter containing evidence of what he was trying to hide.  In essence, he too told on himself.  
The thesis of this book is the dilemma of racial identity and self-acceptance in a racially defined society.  

The overarching purpose of literary historical fiction is to center tales on a unique, historically saturated plot, thus helping readers to better understand the differences between then and now. Further, it must stage and parallel characters, transcending  time in a manner allowing them  to speak to us.  Grissom has successfully accomplished this.

As a black woman, I found the work intriguing.  Unlike some works of historical fiction, Glory Over Everything does not makes a deposit into the bank of literature placing the antebellum period in a sea of romantic individualism, where slaves are enamored with their owner. While it is well-known that sexual relations occurred between slaves and their owners, Grissom does not romanticize this in her work.

It is understood that the antebellum slave narratives were the product of slaves who found freedom and sought to share their story.  This leaves one to question slave stories written by nonwhite authors. Does this change the effect of the story?  I do not believe so.  Grissom has taken great care to ascertain the correct tone, language, and syntax for the specified time period.  If you are not careful, you will begin to feel the pain experienced by Sukey and Pan, simply from reading the words.

Professional Review for NetGalley


Great review, Erica. I think this is a great book. Thank you for sharing with Writerly Yours. :)
Chantel DaCosta said…
Erica, this is a really good review, and great analysis without sharing plot details. I have never heard of Kathleen Grissom, but I do enjoy historical historical and I appreciate your notation that this book does not romanticize the period of enslavement, I will add it to my list of books to read.