The House Girl
February 2013 Indie Next List
— Beverly Bauer, Redbery Books, Cable, WI
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“Assured and arresting...You cannot put it down.”” (Chicago Tribune)
The House Girl, the historical fiction debut by Tara Conklin, is an unforgettable story of love, history, and a search for justice, set in modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia.
Two remarkable women, separated by more than a century, whose lives unexpectedly intertwine . . .
2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves.
1852: Josephine is a seventeen-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm—an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell.
It is through her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.
A descendant of Josephine's would be the perfect face for the lawsuit—if Lina can find one. But nothing is known about Josephine's fate following Lu Anne Bell's death in 1852. In piecing together Josephine's story, Lina embarks on a journey that will lead her to question her own life, including the full story of her mother's mysterious death twenty years before.
Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale of art and history, love and secrets explores what it means to repair a wrong, and asks whether truth can be more important than justice. Featuring two remarkable, unforgettable heroines, Tara Conklin's The House Girl is riveting and powerful, literary fiction at its very best.
Praise For The House Girl: A Novel…
“Assured and arresting...You cannot put it down.”” — Chicago Tribune
It’s shelved under historical fiction, but THE HOUSE GIRL reads more like a historical whodunit, and a smart one at that . . . Both Josephine and Lina are intricately drawn characters — fierce, flawed and very real.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[G]rabs you by the bonnet strings and starts running.” — Entertainment Weekly
“This will be the book-club book of 2013.” — Marie Claire
“Conklin ... is a skilled writer ... who knows how to craft a thoughtful page-turner ...We’re glued to the pages.” — Seattle Times
“A sorrowful, engrossing novel in which the pursuit of justice serves as a catalyst to a more personal pursuit for truth . . . Through Josephine and Lina’s journeys, THE HOUSE GIRL is also a meditation on motherhood, feminism, loss, and, ultimately, redemption.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Conklin’s research blends subtly into the background while successfully rendering a picture of the complex tensions inherent in 1850s society...A historical novel that succeeds in giving voice to the voiceless.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“Skillfully executed and packed with surprises, this novel of the ways in which art saves our humanity is an engrossing do-not-miss adventure.” — Shelf Awareness
“Conklin’s sensitive, deft handling of complex racial and cultural issues, as well as her creation of a complicated, engaging story make this book destined to be a contender for best of 2013.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
“Riveting.” — Ebony
“A seamless juxtaposition of past and present, of the lives of two women, and of the redemptive nature of art and the search for truth and justice. Guaranteed to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“Luminous . . . The rare novel that seamlessly toggles between centuries and characters and remains consistently gripping throughout . . . Powerful.” — BookPage
“Infused with ominous atmosphere and evocative detail...a dramatic montage of narrative and personal testimonies that depicts the grotesque routines of the slave trade, the deadly risks of the Underground Railroad and the impossible choices that slaves and abolitionists faced.” — Washington Post
“Conklin persuasively intertwines the stories of two women separated by time and circumstances but united by a quest for justice...Stretching back and forth across time and geography, this riveting tale is bolstered by some powerful universal truths.” — Booklist
“Rich and surprising...will make hearts ache yet again for those who suffered through slavery as well as cheer for those--Conklin and Lina--who illuminate their stories.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Tara Conklin’s wise, stirring and assured debut tells the story of two extraordinary women, living a century apart, but joined by their ferocity of spirit. From page one, I fell under the spell of THE HOUSE GIRL’s sensuous prose and was frantically turning pages until its thrilling conclusion.” — Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette
“The House Girl is a heartbreaking, heartwarming novel, ambitious, beautifully told, and elegantly crafted. Tara Conklin negotiates great vast swaths of time and tribulation, character and place, with grace, insight, and, simply, love.” — Laurie Frankel, author of Goodbye for Now and The Atlas of Love
“THE HOUSE GIRL is an enthralling story of identity and social justice told through the eyes of two indomitable women, one a slave and the other a modern-day attorney, determined to define themselves on their own terms.” — Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound and When She Woke
“There’s so much to admire in THE HOUSE GIRL -- two richly imagined heroines, two fully realized worlds, a deeply satisfying plot -- but what made me stand up and cheer was the moral complexity of these characters and the situations they face. I’m grateful for this transporting novel.” — Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
“THE HOUSE GIRL stands as both a literary memorial to the hundreds of thousands of slaves once exploited in the American South and a mellifluous meditation on the mysterious bonds of family, the hopes and sorrows of human existence, and the timeless quest for freedom.” — Corban Addison, author of A Walk Across the Sun
“Tara Conklin’s powerful debut novel is a literary page-turner filled with history, lost love, and buried family secrets. Conklin masterfully interweaves the stories of two women across time, all while asking us to contemplate the nature of truth and justice in America.” — Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
“A thoughtful work of fiction about freedom, love, and the continued price for former slaves with modern descendants. Conklin creates a convincing case of an unrecognized injustice with a novel that is both legalistic and artistic...A story of personal and national identity that you won’t want to miss.” — Bookreporter.com
“Exquisite...Conklin takes us down a curious rabbit hole that drops us before a looking glass of uncomfortable truths about race, power, art, family, law and ethics...One of those books in which there’s not one, two or three, but about ten good parts you’ll want to read and reread.” — Essence
“Absorbing...[Conklin] buttresses her legal savvy with strong historical research. She also has a fine way with a story.” — Daily News
William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062207517, 416pp.
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
About the Author
Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Last Romantics and The House Girl.