Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
About Tara Conklin
Tara Conklin has worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes her time to writing fiction. She received a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Born in St. Croix, she grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington. The House Girl is her first novel.
Having read The Help by Kathryn Stockett or The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, this book almost seemed like a mash-up of the two. However, after reading past a few chapters, this book begins to take a unique twist. Told in alternating voices, Josephine (a slave from the past) and Lina (a lawyer in present day), they each have their struggles as they somehow find their voice and strength within.
I absolutely loved the thought provoking lines Tara Conklin shares with the reader. I had never thought of whose hands built the Washington Monument or even the White House. It immediately draws the reader in, because it’s not just about finding out what happens to Josephine and if Lina finds her relatives, but also about showing the rich history many left behind. The story shines a light on the struggles slaves had, the bravery of those working in the Underground Railroad, and the secrets that many died with.
It is such a thought provoking story, that I know many will enjoy this book. It is an excellent story for book clubs, group discussions, class discussion, and anyone who loves historical fiction. More than anything, it is a story that really sheds light on how Americans, as a society, need to never forget what a tragedy slavery is to our history, and the talent and artistry lost….although, in this story, it was found!
Tara’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, November 5th: Read Lately
Thursday, November 7th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, November 11th: Books in the Burbs
Tuesday, November 12th: Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, November 13th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, November 14th: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, November 18th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, November 19th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, November 20th: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, November 26th: A Bookish Way of Life