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The Kitchen Daughter Hardcover – April 12, 2011
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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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.)
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“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
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Top customer reviews
Reluctantly brought out of herself by circumstances and those around her, Ginny slowly starts to see life beyond the walls of her family home. A healthy dose of magical realism is introduced as Ginny inadvertently conjures her deceased Nonna while cooking.
The author's look into normality was well done. The author invites her reader to look at themselves through the character's eyes.What is normal after all? I think the edges of normal are ever expanding. I thoroughly enjoyed this poignant story.
She escapes, as she'd done before, into the comfort and ritual of cooking. As a reader who does NOT like cooking, I was still drawn in and soothed, intrigued by the wonderful recipes - and what happened as Ginny prepared them. Several twists and turns that I did not see coming, and an ending full of hope.
The opening was slow for me, a little disjointed, a little too much repetition from the protagonist, Ginny. I understand, now, afterward, the need for the repetition. I recognized then, too, though to a lesser degree, that it served a purpose of laying foundation, of informing the character. It was enough of an irritation, though, a distraction, that it stops me from proclaiming it GREAT.
That said, there's something really remarkable about the book. I'm a believer in the idea that we react to any given book based on a lot of things, most notably, what's going on in our lives at that moment, our emotional state. These things, along with our own experiences and baggage, make us more or less receptive to a story, a style of writing, a subject matter. I was moved by this story; somewhere along the way I bought in and found myself inside Ginny's world, invested. She has Asperger's, though she's never been officially labeled as such. I felt Ginny's frustration, her confusion, her desire to fight through all of it; I cheered alongside her with each victory, with each new learning and understanding. What holds it all together for me is the touch of magic, the idea, the possibility... she's able to summon up the ghosts of her relatives by working from their handwritten recipes. There are also a couple of twists weaved in that take the story deeper and kept me reading.
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
I read this book in one sitting. It tells the story of Ginny, who seemingly suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, but it has never been diagnosed. Ginny's parents are killed in an accident and Ginny's sister Amanda wants to sell their house because she thinks that Ginny cannot live on her own. The sisters begin a power struggle. As if that is not stressful enough, the gap between the siblings widen when Ginny sees signs of her syndrome in Amanda's older daughter. Ginny finds comfort in cooking and is surprised when she is able to see ghosts when she cooks their handwritten recipes.
This book would appeal to fans of magical realism such as Sarah Addison Allen or Alice Hoffman's books. Ginny is an interesting character and I found the way she lives fascinating. The writing is engaging and will keep readers interested from start to finish.