*Check out http://www.infinitereads.com for other reviews and sundry thoughts!*
The House Girl is an intricate debut novel that blends historical and contemporary fiction. Former attorney Tara Conklin uses art as a common thread intricately to connect the lives of two very different women separated by more than a century.
In 1852 Virginia, 17-year-old house slave Josephine looks after her dying mistress, Lu Anne Bell, while trying to dodge her master's fists. Although her last escape attempt ended in recapture, abuse and the stillbirth of her child, Josephine is ready to run away again. Waiting for her chance, she soothes half-mad Lu Anne by putting finishing touches on the paintings Lu Anne is no longer able to complete. A naturally gifted artist, Josephine's talent far surpasses Lu Anne's, but her world has no place for a slave with her talents.
In 2004, ambitious young attorney Lina Sparrow is assigned to a landmark slavery reparations case. If she succeeds in building a credible case, she could become a partner at her firm, but her supervisor's indifference and a backstabbing co-worker hamper her efforts. Then, through friends of her artist father, Lina learns of rumors that the celebrated Southern artist Lu Anne Bell's paintings may have been the work of a house slave. If Lina can find a descendant of Josephine to act as plaintiff, their case will have the perfect public face, but first she must solve the mystery of what happened to Josephine more than 150 years ago. Complicating matters, Lina's father suddenly wants to talk about her deceased mother after long years of silence, and Lina fears what she might learn about her brilliant, stifled mother.
Alternating between Josephine and Lina's points of view, The House Girl draws two distinct portraits that intersect in surprising ways. Conklin's former life as a litigator for a major corporate law firm shows in her depiction of a young lawyer trying to break through her firm's glass ceiling without sacrificing her ethics. Skillfully executed and packed with surprises, this novel of the ways in which art saves our humanity is an engrossing, do-not-miss adventure.
***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***