An amazing debut novel that combines mystery and historical fiction. Lina Sparrow is looking for the “perfect plaintiff” for a historical class-action lawsuit involving reparations for descendants of American slaves. In the process, she discovers a famous artist who was possibly not really the creator of her paintings. This one will grab you and not let go until the end. One of my top 3 favorites of 2013.
Tara Conikan’s novel alternates between present day New York and 1850’s Virginia. Josephine is a 17-year old house-girl with a hidden talent for painting who tends to the mistress of a Virginia Tobacco farm. Lina Sparrow is a justice-driven lawyer who is trying to win a class-action suit seeking reparations for the descendents of American slaves. In seamless juxtaposition between past and present, Conika intertwines the stories of these two women, highlighting the redemptive nature of art and the stirring openings that can arise when secrets are unveiled and truth is sought. A beautiful book that is meant to be re-gifted again and again.
February 2013 Indie Next List
— Beverly Bauer, Redbery Books, Cable, WI
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.
Weaving together the story of an escaped slave in the pre–Civil War South and a determined junior lawyer, The House Girl follows Lina Sparrow as she looks for an appropriate lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking compensation for families of slaves. In her research, she learns about Lu Anne Bell, a renowned prewar artist whose famous works might have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine.
Featuring two remarkable, unforgettable heroines, Tara Conklin's The House Girl is riveting and powerful, literary fiction at its very best.
About the Author
Tara Conklin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The House Girl. Trained as a lawyer, she worked for an international human rights organization and as a litigator at a corporate law firm in London and New York. Her short fiction has appeared in the Bristol Prize Anthology, Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe, and This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home. She holds 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 (Tufts University). She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her family.
“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