Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
And, it is Ginny's voice we hear as she tells the story, so we see life through her eyes, beginning with her parents' funeral and the difficulties in hosting so many people at the house afterward. It's bad enough to unexpectedly lose her parents when they died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but Ginny can't cope with so many people talking to her, closing in around her, and touching her. She ends up hiding in a closet, trying to escape. That solution only convinces Ginny's younger sister, Amanda, that Ginny can't live alone. The two sisters will have to clean out the house, and sell it, allowing Ginny to move in with Amanda's family.
When everything feels wrong, Ginny turns to cooking. She can calm herself emotionally by talking her way through a recipe. She's an outstanding cook, taught by her mother to follow the rules. But, when she follows her grandmother's handwritten recipe, she calls up Nonna's ghost. It doesn't take long for her to realize she can call up ghosts when she uses handwritten recipes. But, the ghosts have messages that Ginny struggles to understand. They seem to go with a letter and pictures she uncovers, secrets she keeps from her sister. Ginny is wise enough to know she shouldn't tell Amanda any of this until she learns the truth.
McHenry's debut is all the more powerful for being told through Ginny's voice. Readers are caught up in her fear and anger. And, it's easy to understand the power that cooking has in her life, power to sooth her, but also the power to change her life. And, Ginny is very wise, although she doesn't know that. She's not stupid, and, she understands more than many people do that there are many types of normal.
The Kitchen Daughter offers lessons in life to readers as well as to Ginny. It's a story of loss and grief, and learning to handle what life has given. It's a wise person who knows that there are many types of normal.
Jael McHenry's website is www.jaelmchenry.com
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. Simon & Schuster. ©2011. ISBN 9781439191699 (hardcover), 288p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.