Sharing Books and Authors, with an emphasis on Mysteries.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
Jael McHenry's debut novel, The Kitchen Daughter, features a main character with Asperger's Syndrome. Before reviewing it, I have to clarify that I don't know anyone with that syndrome, so I can't speak for her accuracy in describing it. I can say that Ginny Selvaggio offers a unique voice in a story filled with recipes and food.
And, it is Ginny's voice we hear as she tells the story, so we see life through her eyes, beginning with her parents' funeral and the difficulties in hosting so many people at the house afterward. It's bad enough to unexpectedly lose her parents when they died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but Ginny can't cope with so many people talking to her, closing in around her, and touching her. She ends up hiding in a closet, trying to escape. That solution only convinces Ginny's younger sister, Amanda, that Ginny can't live alone. The two sisters will have to clean out the house, and sell it, allowing Ginny to move in with Amanda's family.
When everything feels wrong, Ginny turns to cooking. She can calm herself emotionally by talking her way through a recipe. She's an outstanding cook, taught by her mother to follow the rules. But, when she follows her grandmother's handwritten recipe, she calls up Nonna's ghost. It doesn't take long for her to realize she can call up ghosts when she uses handwritten recipes. But, the ghosts have messages that Ginny struggles to understand. They seem to go with a letter and pictures she uncovers, secrets she keeps from her sister. Ginny is wise enough to know she shouldn't tell Amanda any of this until she learns the truth.
McHenry's debut is all the more powerful for being told through Ginny's voice. Readers are caught up in her fear and anger. And, it's easy to understand the power that cooking has in her life, power to sooth her, but also the power to change her life. And, Ginny is very wise, although she doesn't know that. She's not stupid, and, she understands more than many people do that there are many types of normal.
The Kitchen Daughter offers lessons in life to readers as well as to Ginny. It's a story of loss and grief, and learning to handle what life has given. It's a wise person who knows that there are many types of normal.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.