Book Review | The Kitchen Daughter
Author: Jael McHenry
From the very first chapter of Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter, it’s apparent that the protagonist, Ginny Selvaggio, doesn’t quite live up to society’s ideal of what is “normal”. At 26 years old, Ginny is still living at home with her parents. She doesn’t work, drive, or appear to do anything for herself–other than cook amazing meals. Now that her parents are no longer alive, Ginny’s sister Amanda wants to sell the house and have Ginny move into Amanda’s home.
Upset by this prospect, Ginny turns to one of her dead grandmother’s recipes for comfort and conjures up Nonna’s ghost, who mysteriously leaves her with the words, “don’t let her”. Soon after, Ginny tries other recipes handwritten by the non-living and discovers a long buried family secret. While she searches for the truth that her parents could never tell her, Ginny slowly starts to look to her future and all the possibilities it could hold for her.
After reading and loving Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, I’ve been eager to find something that captures that same magic. I was really hoping that The Kitchen Daughter could do that for me, but I ended up just slightly disappointed. The characters were well-developed, the writing was just fine, but as everything started to build up to the final moments, it just crashed. I guess I went into it looking for a happily-ever-after for Ginny, who clearly has Aspberger’s Syndrome, although she has never been tested for it. Ginny is definitely learning to cope with her quirks by the end of the novel, but I felt she was missing out on something. She could have had this “something”, but the author just kind of pulls the rug out from under her. I didn’t see “it” coming, and when I realized what was happening, I was angry and a little frustrated. I envisioned something just a little bit sweeter, but instead I got a mouthful of bittersweet, and it was kind of hard to swallow.
From the little I know about Asperger’s Syndrome, I think that McHenry did a nice job of placing the reader into the head of someone who has to deal with not being like “everyone else” every day. I really liked how food was Ginny’s safety blanket; I think we each have some comfort food that we turn to when we are at our lowest. Though most readers won’t be able to relate to her 100% of the time, I think we’d all agree with Ginny that sometimes a homemade favorite can cure all our problems–at least for a few minutes.
*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*