Lynn R. (Dixon, IL)
Review From a Foodie Librarian
I liked this book more for the subject than the quality of the writing. Expressing emotions through food and developing characters through recipes was very creative. The voice of the main character, Ginny, was inconsistent and sometimes not believable but she was an interesting character. This books reminds me of Jonathan Foer's quirky style.
Margot T. (Naples, Florida)
Is it medically possible for someone with Asperger's Syndrome to develop real insight into her condition and report it with such accuracy as does Ginny Selvaggio? That was the question that kept haunting me as I read this wonderfully realized story of a young woman caught in her own problem. This is a fascinating story. The characters are very well drawn and the drama of Ginny's life, limited as it is, is very well portrayed. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with David although it ended tragically and the way she learned to be involved in her sister's and nieces' lives.
Cecilia Z. (Montclair, New Jersey)
Interesting story, but too many unnecessary distractions.
This is an unusual novel with a unique narrator, a young woman with Asperger's syndrome, who is coming to terms with her parents' sudden deaths and her now uncertain future. She turns to cooking, which has been her way of connecting and, in her words, finding "normal." How she copes with the changes in her life would have been enough to make this a compelling, well-written novel. Unfortunately, the story takes on other directions - ghosts conjured by her cooking, family secrets and other tragedies - all of which diminish the story with unnecessary distractions. Too bad - it is well-written and would have been much better without these distractions.
Carole C. (Upper Marlboro, MD)
Next to Normal
As does the popular musical whose title I borrowed, "The Kitchen Daughter" challenges its audience to question the definition of "normal." Told through the voice of a young woman with Asperger's Syndrome, this book gives the reader insights into the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of Ginny Selvaggio as she struggles with the sudden death of her parents and the persistent demands of her sister Amanda and society at large. Jael McHenry writes with clarity about Ginny's grief, fears, and uncertainties; she writes with passion about the soothing effects of cooking in the family kitchen, following beloved recipes of family members.
While this book is engaging and readable, there are aspects not as convincing or rewarding. The episodes of ghost-conjuring did not inspire a "willing suspension of disbelief" for this reader. Also, the last chapter, really an epilogue, tied up all loose ends without explaining how essential issues were resolved.
Elizabeth D. (Maple Grove, MN)
A great sightseeing substitute
Last month I traveled to Europe for the very first time; while there, I came down with a nasty cold and spent two and a half days in the hotel room. I still enjoyed those days, however, because I got the chance to read a couple of good books, including this one. I don't know much about Asperger's, so I'm not sure how accurate the portrayal of the main character was, but I liked seeing things from the perspective of this character - how she handled stressful events: what kinds of daily activities were obstacles - and what were not. I have a particular interest in stories told from the perspective of an "outsider", since I find that viewpoint to be revealing of truths often overlooked or ignored.
While I didn't find any particularly new truths, I did think the tension between the two sisters was realistic and balanced. The food descriptions and the aura of alchemy about cooking made me want to become passionate about cooking, instead of treating it as a chore. I love a good ghost story, and would have liked a little more from this piece of the book - the apparitions seemed almost too ordinary, although there was one at the end of the book that I found disquieting. I felt fortunate I brought along such an engaging book - it kept my attention even while sick and made being confined to my hotel room actually enjoyable!
Stephanie C. Librarian (Reedley, CA)
Unique view of Normal
In the Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry we are introduced to the voice of Ginny, a girl with "personality". This story uses Ginny's unique voice to ask questions on how it is normal to grieve and even if there is a normal. Ginny's tale will make you examine the idea of normal and view your actions and the actions of those around you from a different point of view. Recommended for anyone looking for a unique voice.
Deborah C. (Seattle, WA)
The Kitchen Daughter
The premise for this book is really interesting--it's told from the perspective of a young woman with autism spectrum disorder who can bring people back to life (temporarily) by cooking their recipes. Because the main character has Asperger's Syndrome, I kept comparing it to the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which I felt to be a much better book. Here, the main character, Ginny, was well-developed, but that wasn't the case with the rest of the characters. The book was an enjoyable read, though, and I think it would be a good book for book clubs because it raises a lot of interesting issues, including whether Asperger's is a "disability" and the different ways people deal with loss. I guess I was just a little frustrated because the ideas raised in the book were really interesting but the execution was somewhat lacking.