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The Kitchen Daughter Hardcover – April 12, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An Asperger's-afflicted woman finds the keys to life and her family history in the kitchen after her parents die in McHenry's inspired if uneven debut. Ginny Selvaggio has lived a sheltered life: unable to maintain eye contact, make friends, or finish college due to her undiagnosed condition, the 26-year-old lives in her parents' home, surfing the Internet and perfecting recipes. But after her parents die, Ginny and her sister, Amanda, disagree about what to do with the family home—Amanda wants to sell, Ginny doesn't. As they bicker about what to do with the house and the problems caused by Ginny's awkwardness, Ginny comforts herself by cooking and soon learns that the dishes she prepares can conjure spirits. The ghosts, including her grandmother, leave clues about possible family secrets, as do a box of photographs Ginny discovers tucked away. McHenry's idea of writing an Asperger's narrator works well for the most part, but the supernatural touches undermine her admirable efforts and add a silly element to what is otherwise an intelligent and moving account of an intriguing heroine's belated battle to find herself. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


“This fresh, sharp story has as many layers as a good pâte à choux.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

"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

"Jael McHenry's debut is a blast of fresh air, featuring an utterly original heroine who filters her view of an unpredictable world through her love of food. A fresh premise, terrific writing, and memorable characters blended beautifully - and made me devour The Kitchen Daughter."
-- Sarah Pekkanen, author of SKIPPING A BEAT and THE OPPOSITE OF ME

"Equal parts sweet and savory, THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER by Jael McHenry is a fresh story with all the comforts of home. Ginny’s ability to conjure ghosts while dabbling in family recipes is so touching readers will want to pull up a stool. A heartwarming debut."
- Lynne Griffin, author of SEA ESCAPE and LIFE WITHOUT SUMMER

"This debut novel from Jael McHenry is everything you want in discovering a new writer. The Kitchen Daughter is subtle and effortless and emotional and lovely. The food and recipes aren't gimmicky add-ons, but integral to the momentum of the story -- and they make you want to run to the kitchen, except then you’d have to stop reading. It's a layered and satisfying tale."
- Stacey Ballis, author of GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT and THE SPINSTER SISTERS

"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

The Kitchen Daughter is tender, charming and not at all what you expect—which is what makes it a true gem. A beautifully written, boldly thought out tale.”
—Monica Holloway, author of Cowboy & Wills

“A unique voice, richly drawn characters, and a dash of magic—all the right ingredients!”
New York Times bestseller Lisa Genova

"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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439191697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439191699
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,216,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Holly VINE VOICE on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a young woman with Asperger's, Ginny has always been protected and sheltered by her parents. After their sudden death, Ginny is suddenly on her own. Her dominating sister insists on selling their parents house and having Ginny live with her, even though Ginny prefers staying in the home she's always known. Frustrated with the fact that Amanda won't listen to her, Ginny cooks, finding comfort in the order and ritual of recipes and preparation. When she prepares her grandmother's soup, her Nonna appears to her and they are able to speak, but her Nonna disappears after giving her a cryptic message.

As Ginny struggles with expressing her feelings to her sister, she discovers family secrets hidden in her home. Wishing to find answers to her questions, she continues cooking, finding recipes from her mother and father which enable her to speak with them. What their answers reveal teach Ginny more about herself than anything else and she learns that "normal" is different for everyone.

Ginny is a fantastic character. Jael McHenry has completely captured the essence of Asperger's syndrome and the reality that it's a spectrum and it manifests differently in people. I loved her notion that there is no "normal". I have a son with Asperger's. I could see much of him in Ginny. He has coping mechanisms just like Ginny does. He has some of the same tendencies as Ginny and many of her thought processes and reactions are what I see in him.

The narrative is lyrical and well written with mouthwatering descriptions of food and cooking. There is mild, non-gratuitous use of the F word. There are also some great sounding recipes that I can't wait to try. With magical realism elements that evoke Sarah Addison Allen, this is a terrific, engaging story. It's not a ghost story, but a story about determination, acceptance and family.
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Format: Hardcover
Ginny's life is normal. Well, normal if you don't take into account that she's recently started seeing ghosts and that one of them happens to be her late grandmother. After the death of her parents, Ginny turns to what she knows best, the kitchen. It's there, through the comfort of her grandmother's Ribollita recipe that she appears and attempts to send her a message, "do not let her...". Unfortunately that's all she hears and then her grandmother is gone, leaving her with question after question. Not only that, but a sister who is insistent on running her life. With so many questions and little experience in the outside world she turns to what she knows best and discovers something completely unexpected.

Are you a fan of Cecilia Ahern, Sarah Addison Allen, or Aimee Bender? If so, you will absolutely want to read The Kitchen Daughter. Recently there seems to have been a myriad of books centered around magical realism and I for one am actually a huge fan. I don't generally like the overly paranormal, heavy duty fairies and werewolves type books (though there is a time and place for them), but these magical realism books are just perfect. Based enough in the real world with magic that is only slightly unbelievable, because who hasn't heard of someone who can honestly see ghosts? Does that mean it actually happens? Who's to say? But in these few select author's writings they've mastered the art of bending reality and adding a glimmer to a normally ordinary setting; Jael McHenry is no exception.

As for The Kitchen Daughter itself, I loved every bit of it. There were so many surprises, including Ginny's character itself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved the story and the characters. A bit like "A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime," McHenry pulls you into a fresh and fascinating point of view. The descriptions of food, and the way the author infuses every thought of the narrator with food metaphor and imagery, is enough to make your stomach growl, it sometimes seems so real. And, as someone who has been known to screw up 65-cent ramen, I'll even say that I am even a bit inspired to try my hand at some of the dishes Ginny whips up in this story.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Ginny Selvaggio is a young woman thrust under the bright lights of "normal" society after the tragic death of her parents. Ginny has Asperger's syndrome and has been protected all of her life from realizing who she really was...until now. She chooses to cope through cooking, the one thing her mother didn't shelter her from.

As she tries to comfort herself with recipes from the family cookbook, she finds out that she invokes the recipe writer's spirit back from the dead. A strange message from her dead grandmother sends Ginny on a search through her family's past to unlock the mystery they left behind. Ginny struggles to deal with what life has laid on her doorstep as her syndrome tries to pull her back to her old ways of coping.

Ginny's sister pushes her to sell the house and live with her and her family while Ginny only wants to hang on the past as long as she can. Through old and new friendships as well as more ghostly appearances, Ginny begins to piece together the complex puzzle from her parents' past.

I enjoyed this story immensely from beginning to end as I was swept up watching Ginny deal with tragedy as a person with Asperger's. I felt her uncomfortable emotions, her frustrated reactions, and her deliberate cooking methods as if they were my own. Jael's delectable choice of words had me salivating as Ginny expertly whipped up recipes throughout the story. I loved that she started some of the chapters with a recipe. I actually tried one over Christmas, the mulled cider, and it was delicious!

The story unfolded at just the right pace and I held my breath at each chapter wondering what Ginny would face next.
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