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.
"Skillfully rendered from Ginny's point of view, McHenry's debut novel is a touching tale about loss and grief, love and acceptance." - Kirkus Reviews
"The supernatural touches undermine her admirable efforts and add a silly element to what is otherwise an intelligent and moving account." - Publishers Weekly
"McHenry's debut novel is a sensitive and realistic portrait of someone living with Asperger's." - Library Journal
"Add a pinch of magic, a dash of heartache, and a generous portion of lyrical beauty and you have The Kitchen Daughter, an enchanting tale of familial loss and quiet redemption - I loved it."
- Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
"For Ginny Selvaggio, the protagonist of Jael McHenry's captivating debut novel, food is a kind of glossary and cooking provides its own magic, whether it's summoning the dead or softening the sharp edges of a world she finds neither comfortable nor familiar. The Kitchen Daughter is sweet and bitter-sharp, a lush feast of a novel about the links between flavor and memory, family and identity."
- Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of Dogs of Babel and The Nobodies Album
"Magical, strong, and compelling, The Kitchen Daughter asks what is normal, how well do you know your family, and where does grief go? Jael McHenry blends seemingly unmixable ingredients into sustaining answers. I read this book in one satisfying gulp and smiled in comfort when I'd finished this distinctive, nourishing, and wise novel." - Randy Susan Meyers, author of the international bestseller, The Murderer's Daughters
"Gorgeously written and uniquely delicious, The Kitchen Daughter follows an endearingly awkward character after tragedy upsets the fragile order of her world. Jael McHenry is a true wordsmith who shines in evoking Ginny's perspective of family and food, her compelling sense of self, and her eventual understanding that you don't have to be like everyone else in order to belong. A feast of words that makes you glad to be a reader." - Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy
"A delectable family drama, The Kitchen Daughter whips up a sumptuous blend of suspense, magic and cooking. A nourishing debut." - Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The One That I Want
"A unique voice, richly drawn characters, and a dash of magic - all the right ingredients!" - New York Times bestselling author, Lisa Genova
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Rated of 5
Sandy B. (Dewitt, NY) A Sweet And Appealing Story The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is a sweet and appealing story about family ties and an unlikely heroine. Ginny Selvaggio is young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome who suddenly loses both of her parents in a freak accident. Ginny has lived with her parents all her life and her older sister, Amanda, feels that Ginny will not be able to live alone – she is making assumptions about her based on her “disability” and not on her abilities. While Amanda was living her own life, Ginny has learned to handle her differences that others might think of as abnormal. Cooking is Ginny's passion and she uses the steps involved in preparing a recipe to calm her anxieties. Ginny has two special friends who believe in her as well as support from people who were close to her who have died (there’s a bit of magic in the story)! Ginny has an unusual way of dealing with the death of her parents but in the end she makes some startling discoveries about her father and about her own capability to handle this crisis. As a school social worker who has worked with children with disabilities, I found the character of Ginny to be a very accurate depiction of a person with Asperger's Syndrome. I think this story can teach us all something about our assumptions about people who are different than we are.
Rated of 5
Alan K. (Westport, MA) The Ktichen Daughter-Good read! This is a delightful read with an inventive and enlightening approach to the confusing and challenging world of Aspergers. It is especially fun for folks who enjoy cooking. Highly recommend.
Rated of 5
Diane S. The Kitchen Daughter Delightful but poignant book about a young woman with Aspergers trying to come to term with her parents death. She uses cooking as a way to calm herself when she finds situations beyond her coping skills. She find that when she cooks a handwritten recipe the writer of the recipe appears in her kitchen. In this way she finds the answers she needs to overcome problems with her sister and the way to a life on her terms. Readers of Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen will enjoy this book.
Rated of 5
Louise J I Loved It! Jael McHenry’s debut novel is a blast from the past, so to speak and a lesson in what it means to accept the magic in our lives and to never, ever give up on what we know to be true, and above all, to honour who we are and where we came from. I recommend this book for anyone.
Rated of 5
Nina R. (Hot Springs, AR) The Kitchen Daughter The more I read, the more I liked this book. Ginny was a delight and the recipes were very different and added to my enjoyment. I expect this to be a big hit with my book club.
Rated of 5
Erin J. (Lake Oswego, OR, OR) Immersed in the life of a foodie with Asperger's Syndrome I'm nothing like Ginny--I don't much like to cook and I'm very social--but while reading _The Kitchen Daughter_ it was like I was inside her head. I don't personally know what it is like to be anywhere on the autism spectrum, but now I think I have a much better understanding of how it might feel. So I definitely would recommend this book to anyone who has a friend or family member with Asperger's. I'd also recommend it to foodies and fans of magical realism. For readers' advisers, the character doorway is primary, and I'd say that story is secondary because there were some plot twists I was not expecting!
Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who blogs about food and cooking at the Simmer blog. She is a monthly pop culture columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Intrepid Media, online at intrepidmedia.com. Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in New York City.
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