Title: The Kitchen Daughter
Author: Jael McHenry
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal
Opening lines: ‘…Bad things come in threes …’
Blurb: 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 about Ginny’s older sister Amanda (“do not 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.
My thoughts: I love, love, loved THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER, it was one of those books that you pick up and are unable to put it down willingly for even one minute. Ginny is 26 and still lives at home with her parents, she doesn’t work and never finished university, her parents provide for her. Ginny has all the earmarks of having Asperger’s but has never been diagnosed. Instead her parents encouraged her to depend on them no doubt thinking they were doing the right thing protecting Ginny from distress of knowing that she had Asperger’s. Now her parents are dead, killed in a tragic accident, and Ginny is thrust into “normal” society with no protection. So what are the indicators of her Asperger’s? Well everyone is different and has different symptoms by with Ginny it is her dislike of eye contact, hiding in a dark cupboard when she is overwhelmed, her dislike of loud noise, her fixation on one thing – in this case cooking. She is very logical in how she figures things out, and she speaks very bluntly in short sentences. What she isn’t though is stupid.
THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER opens on the day of her parents’ funeral, with crowds of well-meaning mourners firstly at the service and now back at the family home. The reader starts to cotton on to Ginny’s plight when she tries to avoid eye contact with, and being touched by the sympathetic guests. Ginny retreats to the kitchen because the process of following a recipe, physically or mentally, is calming for her, whenever she is overwhelmed, upset, or uncomfortable she copes by turning to recipes, and cooking. Today she needs comfort food and cooks her late grandmother’s recipe of bread soup to settle herself down. What she didn’t expect was for her grandmother’s ghost to appear in the kitchen and talk to her and give her a cryptic warning to stop her sister Amanda.
Amanda is married with two children and thinks she knows what is best for Ginny. Amanda wants to sell the family home and have Ginny move in with her. What Amanda doesn’t realise is that Ginny is growing as a character and learning to live with her peculiar quirks and deal with life. In other words, Ginny wants independence and acceptance. Amanda wants her tested and put in a box marked ‘Asperger’s’ and won’t sit down and discuss things with Ginny. But Ginny has a family mystery to solve, friends to support her, ghosts to advise her and she learns that she can live life her way. At this point I have to say that my one and only disappointment in the novel was David, but I will have to tease you all and say that I can’t say why. Amanda is very unreasonable and the trickery that she inflicted on her sister was unforgivable, but backfired on her completely.
The writing is beautiful and inspirational; the paranormal elements blend effortlessly into the story and seem to be…well…so normal! It seemed perfectly normal to me that Ginny could conjure up ghosts while others can’t. in fact THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER tries to answer the question ‘what is normal’ when it comes to human behaviour, and I think Ginny has the answered nailed: “…There are so many flavours of normal, it doesn’t matter which one I am…There really is no normal…”
Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it..
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