Reviews for House Girl


Booklist Reviews 2013 February #1
Conklin persuasively intertwines the stories of two women separated by time and circumstances but united by a quest for justice. When law associate Lena Sparrow is handed a plum assignment--to find the perfect poster child for a class-action suit on behalf of the descendants of American slaves--she has little appreciation for how radically the task will change the course of her own life and destiny. As she searches for a descendant of Josephine Bell, a house girl rumored to have been the actual artist of a series of stunning paintings credited to her white mistress, she peels away layers of both Josephine's past and her own complacency. Retracing Josephine's often-elusive path, she uncovers some troubling facts about her parents and the startling lie that formed the basis of her childhood and young adulthood. Stretching back and forth across time and geography, this riveting tale is bolstered by some powerful universal truths. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

----------------------
Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #2
Former litigator Conklin's first novel employs the increasingly popular technique of overlapping contemporary and historical fictions--in this case, the lives of a young lawyer defining herself in 21st-century New York and a young slave with secret talents in 19th-century Virginia. In 1852, on a failing Virginia farm, 17-year-old Josephine cares for her dying mistress, Lu Anne Bell, while plotting her escape. Childless Lu Anne has always had a complicated relationship with the bright, naturally gifted Josephine; Lu Anne taught the girl to read and to paint but failed to protect Josephine from husband Robert Bell's rape when Josephine was barely 14. Now, Lu Anne tells Josephine a terrible secret before she dies. Cut to 2004. Lu Anne's art is highly prized as the work of a protofeminist artist sensitive to the plight of slaves. But while researching a case concerning reparations to slave descendants, Lina Sparrow, a white first-year lawyer in a cutthroat Manhattan firm, discovers that a controversy is brewing in the art world: Some art critics wonder if paintings attributed to Lu Anne were really completed by Josephine. At a gallery showing of Lu Anne/Josephine's work, Lina meets a young musician who claims to own several of the paintings. Hoping to prove he is Josephine's descendant, although he appears to be Caucasian, Lina sets out to uncover Josephine's history. Art and identity matter to Lina. Raised by her artist father, Oscar, she longs to know more about her long-dead mother, Grace, especially now that Oscar has painted a provocative series of portraits of Grace. As the focus shifts back and forth between the centuries, Josephine evolves into a wonderfully fresh character whose survival instinct competes with her capacity for love as she tries to reach freedom. But while Conklin clearly knows her way around the legal world, her lawyer, Lina, comes across more as a sketch than a portrait, and the choices she makes are boringly predictable. Provocative issues of race and gender intertwine in earnest if uneven issues-oriented fiction. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

----------------------
Library Journal Reviews 2012 September #1
First-year law firm associate Lina Sparrow must find someone to serve as the face of a historic class-action lawsuit worth a fortune in reparations for descendants of American slaves. Since it's now suspected that antebellum artist Lu Anne Bell's empathetic depictions of slaves were the work of her house slave, Josephine, Lina is determined to track down one of Josephine's descendants. A big push to book clubs; with a 75,000-copy first printing. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

----------------------
Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #2

Lina Sparrow, the daughter of two moderately successful artists, is a New York attorney. In 2004, she is assigned the career-making job of discovering a living person with American-slave ancestry for a class-action suit seeking reparations for abuse and bondage. Josephine Bell, a 17-year-old house slave in antebellum Virginia in 1852, tends her mistress Lu Anne Bell, a mediocre artist, and dreams of freedom. Conklin switches between the two women's viewpoints as she slowly reveals the identity of the painter responsible for poignant works representing the people, free and enslaved, of Bell Creek Plantation. VERDICT Simultaneously telling the stories of two women separated in time by 150 years, the author slowly builds a suspenseful and dramatic revelation of their deep connection across the decades. Conklin's debut is 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. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/12.]--Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage P.L., AK

[Page 94]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

----------------------
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 January #2

Lawyer-turned-writer Conklin debuts with a braided novel of two intersecting tales separated by 150 years. In 2004, Lina Sparrow is a first-year associate at a prestigious New York law firm; in 1852, Josephine Bell is the titular "house girl," a slave on a Virginia farm. Assigned to work on a class-action suit involving slavery reparations, Lina searches out a suitable plaintiff for the case, hoping to find a descendant of slaves with an especially compelling story. Lina's father, an artist, suggests that Lina research the story of Josephine, speculated to be the real artist behind paintings attributed to Lu Anne Bell, her white master, and Lina embarks on a search that finds her retracing the footsteps of a runaway slave. The tragedy of Josephine leads Lina deeper into not only Josephine's history but her own, which helps her to make sense of her mother, a woman Lina never knew. Alternating between Lina and Josephine, this novel is unfortunately trite, predictable, and insensitive at its core: the lives of a 19th-century black slave and a 21st-century white lawyer are not simply comparable but mutually revealing, fodder for healing. Striving for affecting revelations, Conklin manages nothing more than unsatisfying platitudes and smugly pat realizations. Agent: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

----------------------
Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Lawyer-turned-writer Conklin debuts with a braided novel of two intersecting tales separated by 150 years. In 2004, Lina Sparrow is a first-year associate at a prestigious New York law firm; in 1852, Josephine Bell is the titular "house girl," a slave on a Virginia farm. Assigned to work on a class-action suit involving slavery reparations, Lina searches out a suitable plaintiff for the case, hoping to find a descendant of slaves with an especially compelling story. Lina's father, an artist, suggests that Lina research the story of Josephine, speculated to be the real artist behind paintings attributed to Lu Anne Bell, her white master, and Lina embarks on a search that finds her retracing the footsteps of a runaway slave. The tragedy of Josephine leads Lina deeper into not only Josephine's history but her own, which helps her to make sense of her mother, a woman Lina never knew. Alternating between Lina and Josephine, this novel is unfortunately trite, predictable, and insensitive at its core: the lives of a 19th-century black slave and a 21st-century white lawyer are not simply comparable but mutually revealing, fodder for healing. Striving for affecting revelations, Conklin manages nothing more than unsatisfying platitudes and smugly pat realizations. Agent: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

----------------------