Published by: Simon and Schuster
Published on: April 2011
Page Count: 272
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
Today 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.
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