Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review: The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

Title: The Kitchen Daughter
Author: Jael McHenry
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism
Subject: Food, Autism, Grief, Family
Publisher: Gallery
Release date: April, 2011
Length: 272 pages
I got this book: Borrowed it from the library

From Goodreads:
"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."

Personal opinion:
This book is about a undiagnosed woman/girl with Aspergers Syndrome. Because it also was about food, I really wanted to read it. To be honest I didn't even know there would be Magical Realism involved because the back of the Dutch cover didn't mention it. I thought this book did portray the struggles of someone with a form of autism in a very realistic way. I could understand her coping mechanisms well, having a form of autism myself. The one thing I found unrealistic was that Ginny hasn't been diagnosed for so long, while the problems she had were kind of severe. I really disliked Amanda who clearly didn't understand how she should approach Ginny. While I can see her point of view somewhat, I know that forcing someone with autism into change clearly has the opposite effect, so I could feel Ginny's stress. Plot wise there happens a lot in a short time, but the main focus is about how Ginny grows as a person and how she learns to function as an adult in her own way. I thought this was a very good book that combines a few of my favorite genres together. In intended to try one of the recipes from the book, but I had to return it to the library before I had the chance to do so.

I really liked it!

Purchase links: Amazon
Challenges: Foodies Reading Challenge 2, Wishlist Challenge
Other reviews: None yet.
If you have reviewed this book and want your link here, please leave a comment with the link, and I will add it :)

This post is part of Weekend Cooking. Make sure you check out the other participants as well. There are a lot of reviews about great foodie books to be found. 


  1. I haven't read this yet, and one reason is that people keep mentioning magical realism, which sometimes works for me but not always. Still, I should give it a chance.

  2. personally, I loved this book, especially the character of Ginny. The magical realism thing seemed to bother many people, but in the context of this story, I totally bought into it.

  3. This sounds like an intriguing book, unique in its combination of food and the main character with autism.

  4. It sounds like a great read, I'm not really big on magical realism but I do love the food aspect of the story so it has my attention.

  5. I like the sound of all of it apart from the magical realism. The main character seems very interesting, though.

  6. I really want to read this book. I have it but haven't gotten to it yet. Now you've made me want to go grab it and start in.

  7. sounds very interesting. A unique method of having ghosts appear.

  8. Thank you for this review. I'm very interested in the book. I find autism fascinating, and it seems to me to be a gift in many cases. Have you ever read Born On A Blue Day by Daniel Tammet?

  9. @Nan: No I haven't but it is on my list.

  10. I read the book after suggesting it to my book club. We meet next month but I loved it, finished it because I couldn't put it down. Thanks for a great recommendation.