Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

First line: Bad things come in threes.

From the back cover: After the unexpected death of her parents, shy and sheltered Ginny Selvaggio, a young woman with Asperger's syndrome, seeks comfort in the kitchen. The rich aroma of ribollita, painstakingly recreated from her Italian grandmother's handwritten recipe, calms her senses. But it also draws an unexpected visitor - the ghost of Nonna herself - and Ginny soon discovers she has the power to call forth the spirit of any dead person whose dish she prepares. As her pragmatic sister pushes her to sell the only home she's ever known, Ginny finds evidence of a provocative riddle from her parents' past that could be the key to her uncertain future. But can she cook up a dish that will bring them back long enough to help her solve it? Not to be rad on an empty stomach, The Kitchen Daughter is an "intelligent and moving" (Publishers Weekly) debut from a brilliant new literary talent that considers the question: What does it really mean to be normal?

My thoughts: This is the type of book that grabs hold of you and you don't want it to end. I was immediately enthralled with the characters and despite the fact that the book delves into some magical realism, which I don't particularly care for, in this case, it worked to enhance to story.

The Kitchen Daughter is a story with ghosts, but it's not a "ghost story." It's a story about somebody with a syndrome, but that syndrome is not the focus of the story; rather, it provides the lens through which the story is seen. And finally, it's a story about food, written with such obvious passion and expertise that you swear you can smell the food being described. As Ginny struggles with expressing her feelings to her sister, she discovers family secrets hidden in her home. Wishing to find answers to her questions, she continues cooking, finding recipes from her mother and father which enable her to speak with them. What their answers reveal teach Ginny more about herself than anything else and she learns that "normal" is different for everyone.  

I really enjoyed this story and loved all the recipes that are included. While I am not much of a cook, I love reading about characters and their passion with inspires me to want to learn more. I hope to see more from this author.

I received a complimentary copy of The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry from Ayelet at Simon and Schuster


  1. Lovely review, it sounds like you really liked this one! Great blog, too,

    Jessica from Booked Up!

    :) xxx

  2. This does sound like a very good book and I wouldn't have seen it if you hadn't reviewed it. I love how she ties in intrigue and recipes plus deals with a person that has aspergs. WOW! Thank you for reviewing the book!

  3. I thought this book was great - I found Ginny to be so endearing despite her awkwardness. She showed a lot of strength.


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