The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 2011
The Short Version:
After the deaths of her parents a young woman with Asperger’s finds ways to retain her independence and face her grief.
Why I Read It:
When it was first released many people I trust recommended it but I wanted to wait to read it.
From the publisher:
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.
This was one of those books that seemed to be EVERYWHERE when it was first published. I was interested and wanted to read it but I wanted to wait. Often when the buzz is too big and pervasive it doesn’t bode well for my reaction. I do better with hightly talked about books if I wait a while. I didn’t intend to wait quite this long but I finally checked it out from the library. I’m glad I finally read it because I liked it.
I liked that the the story is told from the viewpoint of a character with Asperger’s Syndrome who is doing everything she can to avoid being labeled as such while at the same time dealing with the grief of losing her parents and their protection,
Ginny is an interesting character. As much as she doesn’t want to be labeled she wants to see that another person who is like her gets all the assistance needed.
The whole cooking to call ghosts thing was kind of weird and honestly not my favorite part of the story but it’s how Ginny comes to understand her deceased parents and her own situation. At the same time I loved the descriptions of cooking and food. This book definitely made me hungry.
I’m glad I waited for the buzz to die down about this book before reading it. I would likely have been much more critical if I’d read it when everyone was talkiing about how great it was. Reading it now, when it was just about the right thing I was in the mood for helped me simply enjoy the characters and the story.