The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Ginny Selvaggio could not be more different than I am. She loves to cook and uses cooking to soothe herself. I am making myself learn to cook some basic things and would really rather my husband do all the cooking. She has Asperger's Syndrome, which means eye contact is painful for her, she has difficulty interpreting social cues, she's very literal, and loud noises and physical contact by everyone except a select few send her into a panic. I am very social, love hugs, have a sarcastic sense of humor, and prefer to speak face-to-face because of the eye contact. (OK, I'm with her on the loud noises thing--I hate that, too.) But Jael McHenry's new book The Kitchen Daughter let me experience what it is like inside Ginny's head, to see the world from her perspective.
The book begins with the funeral of Ginny's parents and tells the story of Ginny's struggle to cope with grief and with her younger sister who doesn't understand her at all. Ginny's parents have sheltered her all her life, and Amanda believes it's now her responsibility to take care of Ginny, while Ginny wants to stay where she is and live on her own. The day of the funeral, Ginny retreats to the kitchen to cook her grandmother's recipe for ribollita and inadvertently summons her grandmother's ghost, who has a message for her, "Do no let her." But the unwelcome intrusion of a little-known aunt into the kitchen dissipates Nonna before a frightened Ginny can ask what she means. The rest is a story of courage, communication, and personal growth.
For readers' advisors: character doorway, with story a secondary doorway thanks to some unexpected plot twists. I'd especially suggest this book to anyone who has a friend or family member with Asperger's, anyone who enjoys Sarah Addison Allen's books, and foodies who will appreciate the sensuous descriptions of food and cooking.
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