Friday, September 9, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter

by: Jael McHenry

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Synopsis:
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.


The cover art is phenomenal on this one. It's a mesh bag holding red peppers, but it's shaped in a way to look like a tank top on a woman. It feels comfortable.

I knew before reading that this is a book about a young woman with Asperger's Syndrome, but I was shocked to see that she had no idea. Her parents had always told her she had a "personality" and sheltered her probably more than they needed to.

She loves to cook and is actually great at it. She makes her Nonna's bread soup for comfort during the wake after her parents funeral - all the people touching her and talking to her just push it too far. She flees to the kitchen and finds her Nonna's recipe and when she makes it, her Nonna comes to the kitchen. And that starts the journey...she makes a person's recipe, a recipe written in their own hand, and the ghost of said person shows up.

In doing this, Ginny starts a journey where she learns secrets in her family she never would have guessed. When she finds a letter of apology from her father to her mother along with pictures of a strange woman, she thinks he had an affair. The truth is so far from that mark...it rocks her to her very core.

She gets diagnosed with the syndrome, and being so smart she takes the advice of her doctor and makes her way out of the house and into life. Proving to herself and her sister that she really can make it on her own. And maybe someday she really will get married and have children of her own.

I think this book also highlights the dangers of refusing labels. Yes labeling can be bad, but when you avoid it too much, you can miss out on the help your child may need. Ginny's mom wouldn't let the teachers label her, but in doing that Ginny never got the extra help that would have allowed her to fit in more and function outside the house.

This is exactly the kind of story that I love. And I especially loved Ginny because even though I have never been diagnosed with asperger's syndrome, I can relate to her difficulty with people. I'm not big on touching and I never know the right thing to say or do. Ginny really touched me...this whole story and all the characters touched me.

2 comments:

  1. I'm with you with the labeling. They can be bad, or can be marginalized by many, but they are needed. We don't have to let a label define us, but we discover who we are and how we fit in the world, by finding out how the label applies to us.

    This sounds like a great read. And, yay, wicked cover!

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  2. Sounds like a good read. Will have to add it to my ever growing list of books to read.

    I agree with you about the labels, and about the not wanting people in my personal bubble. You can imagine how much trouble I had after mom died. EVERYONE wanted a hug! My bubble felt dirty!

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