Book Review: The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter
Published By: Gallery Books
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Provided by Goldberg McDuffie Communications
Audience: Adult

The Kitchen Daughter was a perfect mixture of cooking, paranormal, family relationships, and seeking normality. I was fascinated by this book and by the main character, Ginny. This is one of the most creative books I have read recently. I have never really read a book that makes cooking so interesting and integral to the plot nor have I ever read a book that has a main character with Asperger’s Syndrome. The Kitchen Daughter not only entertained me, but it also taught me.

Jael McHenry does a beautiful job of crafting the character of Ginny Selvaggio, a young woman who suffers from Asperger's. Ginny has always been pampered and protected by her parents, but their untimely deaths force her to accept her limitations and find ways to break the barriers she had built around herself. Ginny's one solace in a crazy world is cooking. She finds comfort in preparing food, imagining the texture and taste of her ingredients.

Although Ginny feels that in spite of her parents' death she will be able to survive on her own, her younger sister, Amanda, doesn't agree. She tries to force Ginny into seeking medical attention and a label for her condition. Ginny worries that a label will mean that Amanda will have all the power and she will be forced to leave the only home she has ever known. The disagreements between the two sisters are powerful and made me consider how I interact with my own siblings. From time to time I often try to make them see reason - well, my definition of reason - when maybe they know what is best for themselves. Family is complex and often difficult, but it is also one of the most enduring and important bonds for humans.

This book would have been wonderful just focusing on Ginny, cooking, and her relationship with her sister, but McHenry took it a step further and introduced a paranormal element. Ginny's cooking not only soothes her anxiety, but if she cooks from a handwritten recipe she can conjure up the ghost of the person who wrote it. This little trick allows Ginny to learn more about her family than she could ever have possibly imagined and find the strength to accept who she is and all of her faults.

The Kitchen Daughter takes a look at the messy and complicated issues of family, love, and loss. The book is exceptionally well written and the characters will tug at your heart. However, be prepared to want snacks. 

One Last Gripe: I am still frustrated that I never learned for sure what Ginny was not supposed to let Amanda do - I have my suspicions, but it was never confirmed

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The ghosts

First Sentence: Bad things come in threes.

Favorite Character: Ginny

Least Favorite Character: I honestly didn't have one in this book

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.


  1. I too LOVED this book and agree with you - I was dying to make brownies after reading the different recipes!

  2. @Stephanie - I didn't want to make brownies. That was one ghost I wouldn't want in my kitchen!!


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