MrsK's Seasoned Reader Picks

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl
ISBN: 9780062207517
Publisher's Synopsis:
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.
"On the open page of her notebook, Lina wrote,
'Nature of the harm----slavery.'"
MrsK's Review:
In 1852, Josephine knows she is going to run. There are so many freedoms that Josephine wanted to experience. Simple every day choices like eating when she was hungry, choosing what to wear, smiling and loving... all of which a slave can not do. 

Mister and Missus Lu have a tobacco farm, Bell Creek, in Virginia. So much has gone wrong, yet the Mister was not a man Josephine had pity for. He was a cruel man. Missus Lu is much worse and even her art work can not keep her from the sick bed. Every moment in which she is not sleeping, she is relying on Josephine.

In 2004, Lina Sparrow is a litigation associate at Clifton & Harp LLP. Lina's father is an artist whose living has always been meager. Her mother is only a memory. A memory in which Lina isn't sure if it is a true memory or perhaps a desired memory. Her father has kept all things about her mother a secret until he decided it was a good idea to begin painting her mother. And now, he wanted her to view them. With so much on her mind and in her schedule, she was not prepared for a new case. Especially one of reparation. A reparation that would be offered to the fourth or fifth generation of slaves or ex-slaves.

Written with characters whose voices echo within your heart, settings that are vividly portrayed, and masterfully crafted emotions true to "real-time" experiences you will be beckoned with in the story itself. Uniquely woven between Lina's personal life and her litigation research is a design in which, you become the story's weaver with each thread of Josephine's story as soon as Lina discovers it.
The message is as moving as the story, timely and yet powerful. As an educator this story caused me to ponder what we have forgotten when raising the next generation. In today's world, would any of our children or grandchildren care about Josephine's story or just the reparation pay out?
"The harm is immeasurable."
Inspiring, yet unsettling.
Be prepared to sense a calling towards doing your part in making the world better!

Meet the Author:
 Tara Conklin Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Yale University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and New York University School of Law. A joint US-UK citizen, Tara now lives with her family in Seattle. The House Girl is her first novel.

"I received this book for free from the Fiction Guild for this review."
Thomas Nelson

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