Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter
By Jael McHenry
Publication date: April 12, 2011

My review:

Ginny Selvaggio's quiet life is turned upside down when her parents die while away on vacation. Now her younger sister Amanda wants to sell the house and have Ginny move in with her and her family against Ginny's wishes. The house has always been a place of refuge and safety for Ginny, especially the kitchen. On the day of her parents' funeral, Ginny makes her deceased Nonna's ribolitta and suddenly Nonna's ghost appears before her, telling her "Don't let Amanda..." but the warning is incomplete. Is Nonna trying to keep Amanda from selling the house or is the ghost just a figment of Ginny's imagination? With ghosts appearing in the kitchen, a frosty relationship with her sister, grief, family secrets, and the possibility that she might have Asperger's Syndrome, it is almost more than Ginny can take. 

The Kitchen Daughter is a treat for foodies. There are recipes at the beginning of several chapters and the book is filled with food related descriptions. Ginny relates to the world through food. She loves cooking and it is a coping mechanism for her. When she is upset, she retreats to remembering recipes and techniques for cooking. She even thinks in terms of food when describing people (her sister Amanda has an "orange juice" voice). This might seem strange but it actually fits the characters. I also enjoyed the descriptions of cooking as Ginny made different recipes. Since food and cooking are so important to Ginny, it works very well for the story instead of being a cute gimmick.

Ginny as a character is unique because she has undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. Being able to see the world through her eyes and to feel her frustration because she doesn't understand her sister or she has been too overprotected or things are just out of control really adds to the story. Ginny refuses to believe that she is anything but normal. She even has a "Normal Book" made up of newspaper clippings from advice columns that have the word "normal". I admired Ginny because she didn't want to be labeled. At the same time I wanted her to get help so that she could take care of herself and be more independent. 

The Kitchen Daughter explores the theme of grief as Ginny and Amanda deal with the loss of their parents and there are other characters that have experienced great loss too. I think this aspect of the book is handled very well. The book also shows the complicated relationship between the sisters as well as their parents. I think it would have been too easy to have pat answers and a neatly wrapped up ending but Jael McHenry rewards her readers with something far more honest.  I was slightly hesitant about reading this book because of the ghosts and I wasn't sure how Ginny's character would be portrayed but I was surprised to find that I liked Ginny and that the element with the ghosts really worked within the story. Taken as a whole, The Kitchen Daughter is one of the best books I've read this year. I would suggest this to fans of Cecelia Ahern and Sarah Addison Allen.


  1. Sounds like one I could really get into. Great review.

  2. I also read this and really liked it. It was nice to read your thoughts on it. :)

  3. This sounds great! I'm a big foodie, so it sounds like I have to check it out. Nicely reviewed. :)

  4. Hmm, I wonder what an orange juice voice sounds like? ;)

    Sounds like an interesting book! Thanks for the great review, I'll have to check out the book.

  5. I really enjoyed this as well!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out


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