#332 ~ The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

Published by: Simon and Schuster

Published on: April 2011

Page Count: 272

Genre: fiction

My Reading Format: Hardcover review copy sent to me by the publisher for me to participate in the author’s book tour.

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook

tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Jael McHenry’s host on her TLC Book Tour.  This tour is to celebrate her novel, The Kitchen Daughter.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.

My Review

I do not cook. I do not like to cook. I do not like to read about cooking or food, for that matter. So why did I agree to take part in Jael McHenry’s TLC Book Tour? I found myself asking that very same question as I began reading the story of Ginny, a young woman with symptoms resembling Asperger syndrome. We meet her in the home of her recently deceased parents when their friends and family were gathering after the funeral. Ginny is not alone, but she wishes she was. Her sister Amanda has made all the arrangements and is holding things together. Food and cooking are the only things that calm Ginny, who describes people’s voices in terms of food. When the chaos of all the people in her home and the pressure to hold conversations overwhelms her, she heads to the kitchen. If she isn’t near the kitchen, she prepares the food in her imagination. I honestly thought I had painted myself into a corner with The Kitchen Daughter and I dreaded the thought of my tour date approaching and wondered if I was getting paid back for flippantly agreeing to a tour date on a Friday the 13th. Then the darndest thing happened. It simply clicked.

Her need for cooking to sooth herself led Ginny to discover a unique connection she has with those who have passed on but left behind hand written recipes. When she prepares the food exactly as written, the smell of the dish conjures the ghost of the person who wrote it.Ginny isn’t sure if this is a blessing or a curse. The first ghost, her maternal Nanna, leaves her with an unfinished message, “Don’t let her…”  The novel is about how Ginny gets to the answer behind that warning. While Ginny discovers this gift, Amanda, who is married and has two young daughters of her own, is rightly concerned for Ginny and her future. She’s never lived on her own or truly taken on any responsibilities. Trips into public can still lead to “incidents.” Their parents left their estate to each daughter equally and she takes it upon herself to start getting the house ready to sell. She plans on having Ginny come to live with her family. Ginny does not want to leave her parent’s home. It’s the only place she’s ever known. She does what she can to keep this from happening as she wonders if Nanna’s warning was about Amanda and her plans.

While I admit to skimming most paragraphs that detailed food preparation, I became completely invested in Ginny’s life. I was right there with her in the kitchen wondering if the person behind each recipe will help her get the answers she needed to move forward from the death of her parents. I also loved the relationship Ginny had with Gert, the family’s long-time house cleaner. In times of family drama and emotional upheaval, it takes someone who cares but is not directly involved to know just what to do and say. Gert has learned over the years how to handle Ginny’s “personality” and show her care and affection by placing the palm of her hand on Ginny’s forehead. Ginny cannot stand most touching, but Gert’s gesture is comforting to her. I believe this is so because Gert respects Ginny and her wishes and does not in any way wish to control her.

I was deeply moved by The Kitchen Daughter. It is a beautiful and compassionate look at the inner life of someone with Asperger symptoms. I found myself cheering for Ginny to take her life and live it. I loved watching her take the circumstances of her life without her parents and allow that to change her heart. Her need for solace she found in food made complete sense to me. I understood she needed to classify others’ voices in terms of food because conversation in and of itself was so painful. Jael brought this all to life for me and, I admit, found myself wondering if I couldn’t make some of the simpler dishes.

In the end, my lack of enthusiasm about cooking and the discussion of food in books worked in my favor. The distance I kept from The Kitchen Daughter initially gave me the perfect frame of reference for how Ginny viewed the world. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that whether you are a literary foodie or not, you will get lost in Ginny’s world. It’s a wonderful reading experience.

Jael McHenry’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

I may be the caboose for this tour, but that shouldn’t stop you from stopping by the other blogs to see what they had to say about The Kitchen Daughter:

Monday, April 11th:  girlichef

Wednesday, April 13th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Thursday, April 14th:  She is Too Fond of Books

Friday, April 15th:  Book Club Classics!

Monday, April 18th:  The Singleton in the Kitchen

Tuesday, April 19th:  Back to Books

Wednesday, April 20th:  Coffee and a Book Chick

Thursday, April 21st:  Books Like Breathing

Monday, April 25th:  Simply Stacie

Tuesday, April 26th:  Book Reviews by Molly

Wednesday, April 27th:  Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, April 28th:  2 Kids and Tired

Monday, May 2nd:  The Brain Lair

Tuesday, May 3rd:  Stephanie’s Written Word

Friday, May 6th:  Book Addiction

Monday, May 9th:  Farmgirl Fare

Tuesday, May 10th:  Overstuffed

Wednesday, May 11th:  Books, Movies, and Chinese Food


  • At 2011.05.13 07:36, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    I loved this book too! The food parts were wonderful for me, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t like them. I’m glad to see there was enough substance in the book for you.

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    • At 2011.05.13 17:53, Heather @ Book Addiction said:

      Yay! I loved it too. I’m glad Ginny won you over. 🙂

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      • At 2011.05.14 10:31, SuziQoregon said:

        I’m already on the library waiting list for this one. Way too many people I trust are giving it great reviews.

        Hearing that you enjoyed it despite your reservations going in makes me even more excited to get to the top of the library list soon.

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        • At 2011.05.14 16:13, Beth(bookaholicmom) said:

          I love books with a food theme to them. I can see though where your not focusing on the food caused you to focus more on the character. Now if I read this book I will be more aware of the character after reading your review. I think this might be a book I would enjoy.

          • At 2011.05.15 21:53, Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books said:

            So glad to know that THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER clicks for non-foodies, too.

            yes, Jael McHenry writes of Ginny with incredible compassion. I was rooting for Ginny and her independence; Amanda was doing what she thought was best for her sister, but without considering Ginny’s preferences. I don’t imagine I would have done the “right/best” thing in that situation, either – grief, young kids, an adult sister who may or may not be able to live on her own …

            • At 2011.05.18 11:40, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

              I loved this book immensely! I enjoyed every aspect of it, and found myself bawling at the end. Granted, I was on a long business trip at the time a few weeks ago, so I might have been a tad more sensitive than usual, but…it still made me cry like a baby and sometimes, I just love that! 🙂

              • At 2011.05.18 11:58, Jennifer said:

                You’re right. Sometimes a good cry from a book is a great release. I can’t recommend this book enough.

                • At 2011.05.23 11:26, Lisa Munley said:

                  Oh! I didn’t even realize you weren’t into food and foodie fiction, but I’m so glad this one won you over. I’m reading it now and loving it so much; I’m right at the part where she’s hoping to conjure up her dad with the playdough recipe and get some answers about those black and white photos.

                  Thanks so much for being on the tour and sharing The Kitchen Daughter with your readers!

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