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The Kitchen Daughter [Paperback]

Jael McHenry
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 20 2011
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.

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The Kitchen Daughter + The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Novel
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Review

“This fresh, sharp story has as many layers as a good pÂte À choux.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

"For Ginny Selvaggio, the protagonist of Jael McHenry's captivating debut novel, food is a kind of glossary and cooking provides its own magic, whether it's summoning the dead or softening the sharp edges of a world she finds neither comfortable nor familiar. THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER is sweet and bitter-sharp, a lush feast of a novel about the links between flavor and memory, family and identity."

- Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of DOGS OF BABEL and THE NOBODIES ALBUM

"Magical, strong, and compelling, The Kitchen Daughter asks what is normal, how well do you know your family, and where does grief go? Jael McHenry blends seemingly unmixable ingredients into sustaining answers. I read this book in one satisfying gulp and smiled in comfort when I’d finished this distinctive, nourishing, and wise novel."

- Randy Susan Meyers, author of the international bestseller, THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS


"Jael McHenry's debut is a blast of fresh air, featuring an utterly original heroine who filters her view of an unpredictable world through her love of food. A fresh premise, terrific writing, and memorable characters blended beautifully - and made me devour The Kitchen Daughter."

-- Sarah Pekkanen, author of SKIPPING A BEAT and THE OPPOSITE OF ME

"Equal parts sweet and savory, THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER by Jael McHenry is a fresh story with all the comforts of home. Ginny’s ability to conjure ghosts while dabbling in family recipes is so touching readers will want to pull up a stool. A heartwarming debut."

- Lynne Griffin, author of SEA ESCAPE and LIFE WITHOUT SUMMER

"This debut novel from Jael McHenry is everything you want in discovering a new writer. The Kitchen Daughter is subtle and effortless and emotional and lovely. The food and recipes aren't gimmicky add-ons, but integral to the momentum of the story -- and they make you want to run to the kitchen, except then you’d have to stop reading. It's a layered and satisfying tale."

- Stacey Ballis, author of GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT and THE SPINSTER SISTERS

"Gorgeously written and uniquely delicious, The Kitchen Daughter follows an endearingly awkward character after tragedy upsets the fragile order of her world. Jael McHenry is a true wordsmith who shines in evoking Ginny’s perspective of family and food, her compelling sense of self, and her eventual understanding that you don’t have to be like everyone else in order to belong. A feast of words that makes you glad to be a reader."

- Therese Walsh, author of THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY

“A delectable family drama, The Kitchen Daughter whips up a sumptuous blend of suspense, magic and cooking. A nourishing debut.”

—Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The One That I Want

The Kitchen Daughter is tender, charming and not at all what you expect—which is what makes it a true gem. A beautifully written, boldly thought out tale.”

—Monica Holloway, author of Cowboy & Wills

“A unique voice, richly drawn characters, and a dash of magic—all the right ingredients!”

New York Times bestseller Lisa Genova --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who blogs about food and cooking at Simmerblog.com. She is a pop culture columnist and editor-in-chief of Intrepid Media and a regular contributor to Writer Unboxed. Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in New York City.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Puts the creative back into creative writing June 6 2013
By Cee Ess TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
A recipe card with scrawled ingredients and instructions. Each chapter starts this way, using food to frame the story and characters. It may seem like a fairly easy premise, but not entirely when you consider the main character, Ginny. The author has to craft her carefully. Ginny struggles with deep seated anxiety and social awkwardness - eventually labeled Asperger's Syndrome. Some of her traits seem disconnected from each other; she can't cope with some things, but can make logical conclusions at other points. Those points broke the believability for me. Other than that, it's a thoughtful and compelling piece of creative writing that challenges the reader to consider what you need to be considered normal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A delicious read with interesting characters March 16 2013
By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm [...]
My Thoughts: I came across this book via another book blogger, The Book Maven, on Twitter. From the synopsis on the back cover and the beautiful picture on the cover (I'm a sucker for a great cover) I decided to pick it up. I was also intrigued of the author combining a magical element with Asperger's.

"The Kitchen Daughter" is a very easy read. This is not one of those fast-paced books where the storyline and plot development takes centre stage. The story is more about the characters, their relationships and general family dynamics . The fact that it dealt with food didn't deter me either! I love how cooking and family 'tried and true' recipes are used not just for sustenance but for bonding between the generations. That is so awesome!

This book has a twinge of magic in it which I, of course, enjoyed. I'm not talking about wizards and werewolves and other paranormal fare. It's more of a quirkier, subtle magic. This book has the same magical feel as Sarah Addison Allen's "Garden Spells". I think it creates a lighter feel to a rather serious book.

Going into this book I honestly have to say that I only had a very basic understanding of Asperger's which is only due to the fact that I know two children that are affected by this syndrome. Reading more and more about Ginny's symptoms made me better understand the symptoms that I've seen firsthand (which, admittedly, I didn't realize were symptoms until reading this book). Educating myself about Asperger's is what I loved most about this book. It's an eye-opening, real account of what it's like to live with Asperger's.
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5.0 out of 5 stars bought it for book club March 12 2013
Format:Paperback
I loved the book . |Read it for bookclub and ended up chatting for hours over some italian dinner~. Very different form other books ive read
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