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Extended Audio Sample The House Girl: A Novel, by Tara Conklin Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,829 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Tara Conklin Narrator: Bahni Turpin Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2013 ISBN: 9780062239877
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Grabs you by the bonnet strings and starts running.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “This will be the book-club book of 2013.”

    Marie Claire

  • “Layer after layer of secrets and discoveries.”

    NPR

  • “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

  • “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

  • “Assured and arresting…You cannot put it down.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Conklin…is a skilled writer…who know how to craft a thoughtful page-turner. We’re glued to the pages.”

    Seattle Times

  • “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)

  • “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

  • “The rare novel that seamlessly toggles between centuries and characters and remains consistently gripping throughout.”

    BookPage

  • “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

  • Selected for the February 2013 Indie Next List
  • A February 2013 Good Housekeeping Best Book: New Book Pick
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Christine | 2/19/2014

    " I was really looking forward to reading this book because of all the hype on it. I read it halfway and just gave up. I felt no connection to the main character, the storyline was way drawn out and it just became a chore to read. Too many books on my wait list to spend time reading something I didn't enjoy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Estelle Momrow | 2/14/2014

    " Interesting story line about slavery intertwined with the modern story of a young lawyer trying to make it a a large law firm. Well written, interesting characters and even a love affair. Enjoyed the story. It is a quick read that keeps you turning the pages. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cindy | 2/6/2014

    " I finished it but it was really slow going. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 1/26/2014

    " Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked that it is written in alternating chapters from the Slave Josephine, and current day lawyer Lina.I do think that this book was a bit slow going. There weren't enough powerfull moments to keep me from putting the book down. It seemed to drag on a bit. Only getting to the real meat of the story in the last 50 pages. The characters were likeable enough to keep me reading it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan Viveiros | 1/23/2014

    " I have to say it took me a little while to get into this book but was glad that I stayed with it. I did end up enjoying the historical part of the story and thought the characters were very interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chuck | 1/22/2014

    " A terrific story. Very well written. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anna | 1/20/2014

    " The House Girl is an Indie Next pick this month, and it absolutely deserves it. This is a powerful, engaging novel. Lina is a lawyer in 2004 working on a reparations case. Josephine is a slave in 1852 who is struggling for some kind of freedom. Their lives connect in ways you wouldn't imagine as their stories unfold chapter by chapter. The author found the perfect way to unravel this story for maximum impact. Even though it's not really a suspenseful novel, I found myself unable to put it down. It was moving and beautiful and important. It's also great for book club discussions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lorraine | 1/3/2014

    " A great book, the story moved quickly and a number of twists and turns so it kept my interest. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shannon Ross | 1/2/2014

    " Although this was an engaging story the book was not well edited. It became very bogged down & could have been told in a less detailed pace. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elise Noorda | 12/27/2013

    " This was a good book - engaging and interesting to read. I liked it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Burtonbunch | 12/22/2013

    " Took me a while and never loved Lina's character, but loved me some Josephine "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 korey | 12/6/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. Great cast of characters, especially Josephine, with very clever plot developments. It was a bit sleepy in parts where the author gets bogged down with trivial description, but other than that, it's a good solid read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shandie | 12/4/2013

    " When I started it I wasn't sure if I was going to like it but after a couple of chapters I got into it. Good book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kefira Fisher philippe | 11/5/2013

    " Thought provoking and well executed "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mia O'brien | 10/22/2013

    " This was a wonderful story. I am so sorry to have finished it---wanted it to go on and on. So well written and very interesting story and characters. I found myself wishing I knew them personally. Would highly recommend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Victoria | 10/15/2013

    " 3.5 I think I expected too much of this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melanie | 10/11/2013

    " Looooved this one!! Could not put it down! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cory Nevill | 9/5/2013

    " I loved the story of women at different times connected. Like A.S. Byatt's novel Possession it made me think about humanity despite the time period. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meredith DeBrunner | 9/1/2013

    " I felt that the story was a little slow going, but by the end of the book, I did not want it to end. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Vionna | 7/22/2013

    " The writing was very flat and did not keep my interest. After 100 pages, I closed the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 7/10/2013

    " Really really enjoyed this book. Love the characters and the story. Excellent quality of writing and realism. Could have easily gone into happy ending land but it did not and I admire the restraint of the author in this regard. Highly recommended!!!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leith | 6/5/2013

    " A complex and enthralling historical novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sherrie | 5/6/2013

    " Josephine's story was absolutely wonderful and made me want to read more about slaves. I enjoyed Lina's work/research process - especially the family history research. If Bell Plantation was a real place, I'd definitely be going there to take the tour. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gold | 4/28/2013

    " Great weaving of two stories across different times. I thought it was very well written. As an aside, this book would be appropriate for a teenager interested in historical fiction and mystery. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Denise Novak | 4/16/2013

    " It was so good and hard to put down. Two good stories rolled into one book. This author is very talented and I'm looking forward to reading her books in the future. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MBFMBF | 3/16/2013

    " Great until the end...conclusion too predictable and trite. A good read though. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Trisha | 2/10/2013

    " started out promising, but never really went anywhere "

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