Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter Jael McHenry Review

The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter
Jael McHenry
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Gallery

Goodreads: 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.

My take: This is actually my favorite kind of book. It's about something relevant but also about something else much more relevant. It reminds me of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which is about a girl who feels what people feel when they cook the food. But it's really not. It's about coping skills or it's a little story about growing up... 

This book is about Ginny who is 26 years old and has a personality. At least that's what she's always been told. Secretly, Ginny has never been officially diagnosed with Aspberger's Syndrome. She has self-soothed by hiding in closets and sticking her hands into her parents' shoes or cooking. She also self-soothes by cooking or imagining chemical changes while she cooks. 

One day she needs to feel comfort and whips up a dish by her Nonna. Imagine her surprise when Nonna appears to her in the kitchen and talks to her. Scares the dickens out of her. This turns out to be a theme for her. When a recipe is hand written, she can conjure a person up with the cooking and the smell. They stay until the smell fades. She learns from talking to them but also is forced to interact with the world about her. Her trusted housekeeper begins as the artery to the outside world and slowly Ginny discovers what she can and can't do. The introduction of David, the housekeeper's grief engulfed son is an interesting storyline. 

The book is a story about grief and some of the different grieving styles. So very, very interesting. 

Why I want Jael to be my friend: Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who grew up in Michigan and Iowa before moving from city to city along the East Coast: Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and now New York, where she blogs about food and cooking at the Simmer blog, http://simmerblog.com. She is a monthly pop culture columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Intrepid Media, online at intrepidmedia.com. 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. 

In her senior year at Tufts University she appeared as a semi-finalist on the "Jeopardy!" College Championship, where she made a killing in consolation prizes. 

Image of Jael McHenry

No comments: