Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: "The Kitchen Daughter" by Jael McHenry

Summary from 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.

I was drawn to this story because of food. I share this same feeling with the main character in the story. Food is what comforts Ginny and it's used a lot in this book. From recipes that she makes from scratch to thinking about what she's going to make to going out and buying ingredients, food is the key to making Ginny feel at peace with herself. There are lots of yummy descriptions of the dishes she makes as well as several recipes including ones that bring back loved ones from the grave. The main focal point of the story is Ginny finding out that certain recipes will bring back those who have been dead as the smell of the food draws them back to our world. While they are here, the ghostly apparitions tell Ginny revelations of secrets they have kept hidden their entire lives. It's up to her to use them in a way that can help others.

The part of the book that stuck out most to me was Ginny and Amanda's relationship. It's obvious that the two of them love each other. Amanda is the younger sister but because of Ginny's personality, she feels that she has to act as the older sibling. It's easy to understand her frustration because she doesn't think that Ginny acts "normal". Her own life sounds a bit hectic and she wants to put closure on her parents' death yet she can't because she knows that Ginny needs that familiarity in her life. Some readers might not like her but I felt like I could understand what she was going through. The two sisters are different as night and day but their relationship is a close one.

If there was anything that I felt to be disappointing in the book, it was the secret that was finally revealed by Ginny and Amanda's dad. From the way it had been hinted throughout the book and how their mom's ghost said not to tell Amanda, I was sure that she was the product of an illicit affair and not really Ginny's sister. Not that I was angry with the truth or felt deceived, but it was a bit of a let down after so much build up. I was really surprised at the final outcome of the book. That situation totally caught me off guard and I wasn't expecting it at all. In fact it made me quite sad as I finished the story. It's not that I need everything neat and tidy and I do realize that life doesn't always work out the way wanted. I just was hoping for something and it didn't come true.

This is the first story that I have read that deals with a character who has Asperger's Syndrome characteristics. I found it very interesting to learn more about this type of personality as well as see what it is like for the person who is going through it first hand. This gave me a new insight on Ginny's character and I enjoyed reading her story. This is a wonderful debut from Jael McHenry and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is published by Gallery Books (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

I'm able to give away one copy of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form below. This contest is open to US and Canada entrants only. Winner will be picked Wednesday May 18.

PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.


  1. I loved this book! I think I know what you were hoping for, because I was hoping for it too.

  2. This book is now on my wish list to read! Great post. Susie

  3. I also was hoping for the happy ending! And also guessed incorrectly on the secret, just like you. Great review, thanks so much for being on the tour!


Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your thoughts. Comments on posts that are older than 14 days are moderated so don't worry if your comment doesn't show up automatically.