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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:
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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.”


  • “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.”


  • “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.”


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


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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