Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

TITLE:    The Kitchen Daughter
AUTHOR:    Jael McHenry
INFO:    Hardcover, Fiction, 272 pages
PUBLISHED:   Gallery Books, 2011
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for Review

  After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

MY TAKE:    This was one of those books that you start reading without really knowing what to expect.  The publisher's blurb promised ghostly magic, cooking, an unconventional heroine with Asperger's Syndrome, and a lot of family drama.  I wasn't really anticipating learning everything that I did and enjoying the story quite so much.  It was a real treat to lose myself in this sweet and uplifting debut novel. 

The author has done an amazing job of creating memorable and endearing characters.  She has the reader running the entire range of emotions as they become more ensconced in the life of Ginny.  We are right there rooting for her as she meets her challenges, grieves her losses and celebrates her successes.  Ginny is a fantastic protagonist.  You empathize with her, laugh and cry with her, share her frustrations and marvel at her grasp and love of cooking.  Her sister Amanda is annoying, especially in the beginning, but you do understand her behaviour as the story progresses.  The sympathetic housekeeper Gert is a lovely addition as well as that of her grief-ridden son David.  They both play pivotal roles in Ginny's bid for independence and acknowledgement of herself.

I learned quite a bit about Asperger's Syndrome from The Kitchen Daughter.  Ms. McHenry is very adept at enlightening the reader about this often undiagnosed condition while entertaining us with a warm and thoughtful tale.  The story truly is a lovely blend of magic, family, cooking, love and loss.  And let's not forget ~ hope.  This debut novel is just the beginning for this very talented author.  I am very happy to have had the chance to read this book.  It is on my "highly recommended" list!
Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

WHERE TO BUY IT:    Amazon and The Book Depository

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.


  1. Looks like one for my own daughter! Thanks for the review! Will have to look for this one....Pam N.

  2. Nice to read your thoughts on this. I just posted my own review of this book on my blog, and I loved the book -- I already got one our library patrons on hold for it when it comes in. :)

  3. You are absolutely right - with the synopsis provided, I totally did not know what to expect. But I did know that I wanted to read the book because being a medical student, I have an interest in Autism, and its associated spectrum, and I love cooking - and this kind of combined the two.

    But after reading your review, I will most definitely be checking this book out! :D Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
    Twitter: @inluvwithbookz


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