Description (from Simon & Schuster)
From the very first page, I fell in love with The Kitchen Daughter. It has the perfect ingredients and blended together it forms a feast for the reader and exemplifies what I love about women's fiction. The Kitchen Daughter is a debut novel by Jael McHenry layered with the strength of complex and strong characters, a dash of magic, a unique story and a genuine and honest heroine in Ginny. The writing is beautiful and the story is engaging and endearing, I devoured it. I actually didn't want it to end so I savored it chapter by chapter. Ginny is in her mid-twenties, lives at home with her parents and is shy and socially awkward. Her life is turned upside down after the unexpected death of her parents. Ginny's mother taught her to cook at a young age and it is more than a hobby. Ginny most likely has Asperger's Syndrome and cooking is a way for her to cope, escape from the stresses of life. She is skilled at it and has a sixth sense about spices and ingredients and cooking is a sensory experience for her. After her parents death, she seeks comfort by making a recipe of her grandmother's and finds that as the scent fills the kitchen, she can invoke the ghost of the dead person whose recipe she is making.
Not only is Ginny learning to live alone but her sister Amanda wants to sell the house and have Ginny move in with her family. This is the only home Ginny has ever known and is not ready to make these changes in her life. As she starts packing her parent's things she uncovers evidence about her parents past and family secrets that she is not sure how to find the answers to. She finds that the way to find the answers is through her cooking, cook from her parents recipes and try to bring their ghosts to answer her questions.
What I appreciated about The Kitchen Daughter is that the author takes us into the fascinating unique mind of Ginny and how she experiences life with Asperger's. As a reader you experience her social challenges, emotional challenges and how sensory experiences are overwhelming and comforting. Ginny learns how to deal with loss, new relationships, family and secrets. The writing was just beautiful, lyrical and a feast to read. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and loved the magical realism elements to the story that are woven into the novel so well. The cooking flows with the magical elements that are whipped in to strengthen and blend effortlessly into the story.
I loved the food elements of the story and many of the chapters had recipes at the beginning of them. This would be a great book for a book club discussion. There are so many elements to discuss and the recipes could be made as part of the discussion to go along with the theme of the book. Midnight Cry brownies would make a great dessert and The Georgia Peach would make an excellent cocktail (See recipe below). There is a Reading Group Guide for The Kitchen Daughter, here. Ms. McHenry website states that she is even working on book club menus to correlate with the book, that is a great idea!
Here is a recipe from the book that sounds like a perfect summer drink:
The Georgia Peach
2 ounces peach schnapps
2 ounces orange juice
1 ounce amaretto
Combine schnapps, juice, and amaretto. Pour over a single ice cube in a martini glass. Splash in grenadine. Serves one as written. This is one that will need to be multiplied and would make a great drink to accompany a book club discussion of The Kitchen Daughter.
Check out this wonderful video with the author Jael McHenry talking about The Kitchen Daughter and a recipe from the book called Hot Hot Chocolate
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