Michele W. (Kiawah Island, SC)
Cooking with Spirits
Ginny Selvaggio is a 26-year-old woman who lives at home with her father, a doctor, and her overprotective mother. As the book opens, she is attending her parents' funeral. They have died years before their time, in a vacation cabin, of carbon monoxide poisoning. It becomes obvious immediately that Ginny has a problem. She cannot look people in the eyes or read social cues. She responds to touch by screaming or escaping into a dark closet for hours. She has a photographic memory and becomes engrossed in esoteric topics. The author has Ginny tell her own story, and does a fine job depicting her disability via her behavior and her thoughts. As a psychologist who worked with children, I was able to diagnose Ginny's problem long before she herself became aware of what made her a little different. She was preoccupied with the idea of normality, and cut up advice columns, pasted them in a book, and read them often to remind herself that nobody really knows what normal is. Ginny has a younger sister named Amanda who feels it necessary to take over where their mother left off in protecting Ginny from the world. Without consulting her, Amanda decides to sell the family home and make Ginny move in with her and her husband and children. Ginny is aghast and gathers her strength to resist Amanda's plan. Forced to take care of herself, Ginny improves her coping skills. Instead of hiding in the dark, she thinks about carmelized onions, or sesame oil, or a favorite recipe. Ginny's mother taught her to cook, and she cooks for comfort rather than to actually eat. After the funeral, Ginny makes the bread soup that her Italian grandmother made and wrote out for her on a recipe card. As she finishes, her grandmother's ghost suddenly appears on the kitchen stool, wearing a Shaker sweater and white Keds (she died in the '90's) She gives Ginny a cryptic warning, and the rest of the book involves Ginny sleuthing to find out what the warning means. She deduces that all she has to do to summon a person's ghost is to cook a recipe written in their hand. But it only works once, so she has to be sure she knows what she wants to ask. This is not so easy, and she summons several ghosts before she can understand the issues. She is supported in her fight to remain independent by her mother's cleaning lady, the Cuban-Jewish Gert, who not only gives her good advice, but also provides her with a way to get out of the house and make a life for herself. There were a couple of twists that caught me by surprise, which usually means I'm so busy enjoying the details that I don't stop to think about where the book is going. There is a lesson for us all in Ginny's growing understanding that appearances can't be trusted, that normal is indefinable, and that communication is difficult at the best of times.
Janice H. (Savage, Minnesota)
Discovery in the Kitchen
I loved this book. I enjoyed learning more about Ginny, from her perspective as the story unfolds. Her 'symptom' , although never diagnosed adds to her fight for a new independence and her grief after the sudden loss of both parents. It's a wonderful story of two sisters' love and disagreements as they try to figure out life as it is now. It is a great book for book clubs. It opens the way to discussions on the secrets families keep from each other, the help we get from our friends, coming to terms with our personality differences, ghosts from the past and giving up some crutches in order to grow and move on. You'll have to read the book for yourself to find out why.
Joyce K. (Conway, Arkansas)
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the more I read the more captivated I became with the characters in the story. When I read a book and begin to care about the characters then I know I have a made a good selection. I felt as the story progressed the reader had a real sense of the struggles one has dealing with one of life's difficult problems; the death of family and friends.The struggle to define what is normal is certainly explored throughout the entire story whether it be dealing with grief, or family or just routines that we all take for granted.
Having had a child who was bright, but struggled in his early years to form friendships made Ginny's character very real to me,even though her social awkwardness was much more severe.
I think this book would be a good choice for young and older adult readers. I would certainly recommend it to my current book club. I look foward to more titles from this author.
Kathy S. (Danbury, CT)
The Kitchen Daughter
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and finished it in one sitting. Unlabeled / undiagnosed, Ginny exhibits classic signs of Asperger's and has been sheltered from life by her parents. Coping with the loss of her parents, Ginny discovers that she is more capable than she or her sister realize. Would love to see a sequel !
Lenora C. (Altoona, FL)
The Kitchen Daughter
Good,informative read. I enjoyed reading about someone dealing with Asperger's syndrome, a condition about which I knew very little. I would recommend it to book clubs.
Jill S. (Eagle, ID)
The Kitchen Daughter
What a great book! Once I started , I couldn't put it down. McHenry has done a great job taking readers on a journey with Ginny (who has Aspergers) after the death of her parents. This book is so much more than self-discovery; it explores family, loss and love. This book will stay with you long after you finish it, and will be a great read for any book club.
Katharine K. (Alpine, CA)
A REALLY good book!
I enjoyed this book so much and was always anxious to get back to it to read more. I am from a family with quirky "personalities" so I certainly understood the reluctance to be labeled and the need to appreciate what each person has to offer. The chapters start with a recipe so trying some of them is my next project.