Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review - The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

Title: The Kitchen Daughter
Author: Jael McHenry
Year: 2011
Page: 288
Genre: Fiction - Food

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

First Sentence:
Bad things come in threes.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I love books about food, fiction or non fiction (see the blog name?) So when I read Charlotte's Web of Books review of this book, I'm sold!
First thought:
  • Something different!
Cover Art:
  • I thought it was clever - the bag looks almost like a little black dress. With that and the red capsicum (peppers), you know it's a book geared towards female and food :) Well, as if the title didn't tell you that!
  •  Fitting
  • The author described other people voice like orange, tomato, chocolate/espresso, e.g. "Ma's laugh sounded exactly like spearmint bubble gum. Her voice was like regular spearmint, clean and cool, but the laugh was a gum bubble popping." (p39)
  • Easy to read
  • I like how the story was set up, with a bit of magical realism
  • I liked the message of the book - "there is no normal" - from Ginny's Book of Normal. The book was a nice touch
  • Each chapter started with a recipe, though sometimes the "handwriting" on those recipes were a bit hard to read
  • The characters are all likeable. I didn't take much notes as I read it so I can't remember all the details
  • I do like how the relationship between Ginny, and the housekeeper's son (sorry forgot his name), was handled. It was unexpected, so I liked that. Too many women's fiction was too predictable, hence I didn't like reading them usually
  • I don't remember much but I think it did tie things up? Gosh I feel like I am 100 years old and don't remember what I did yesterday!
  • You definitely felt for Ginny. Plus what really is normal anyway?
What I Learned:
  • I need to take better notes when I read, so I'd remember what happened and how I felt about the characters!
Read this Author again?
  • Probably!


I will take a new approach to death, because what is important about death is not the dead. It's the living. Those of us left behind. (p260)

Overall Rating:
3.5 Stars. Cute, fun read with a unique premise. Readers who like magical realism will like it.

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.


  1. Glad you liked this! I thought the way they handled the Ginny-housekeeper's son thing was wonderful. I didn't see that coming!

  2. @Aths - Yes I think how she deals with Ginny and the housekeeper's son was brilliant. Totally unexpected. I was afraid it'd be another chicklit like relationship. That'd have ruined it.

  3. I like the sound of this one. I am a sucker for almost anything involving food.


  4. @quirky/jahara - me too, hence my blog name :)

  5. I really like the way she described people's voices in terms of food, too. Poetic without being overbearing.

  6. @Joy - Agree! Thanks for posting a link to your review!

  7. I loved the food descriptions as well. It was cool to see the way Ginny's mind worked through the way she thought of other people.