Review: The Kitchen Daughter

I’m opening the silverware drawer for a spoon when I notice her. On the step stool in the corner of the kitchen, next to the refrigerator, sits Nonna. She is wearing a bright yellow Shaker sweater and acid-washed jeans. Nonna has been dead for twenty years.


Today is the pub date of The Kitchen Daughter, by Jael McHenry. It was published by Gallery Books, is 272 pages, and has a fantastic cover. What’s between the covers, however, is the real treasure.

Ginny Selvaggio is an exquisite cook and dutiful daughter. She also has Asperger’s syndrome and can conjure up the dead with their handwritten recipes.

On the day of her parents’ funeral, as she seeks comfort by cooking one of her deceased Italian grandmother’s old recipes, the ghost of Nonna, herself, arrives to talk to Ginny and to warn her. Nonna’s cryptic words, “Do no let her...”, start Ginny on a mission to conjure other relatives and get to the bottom of a family mystery.

Ginny is one of the most endearing characters I’ve encountered in a long time, and McHenry is a master at capturing her voice and maintaining it throughout the novel.  Watching Ginny’s transformation within herself is wholly satisfying and believable, even as the ghosts of her dead family members lead her along the way.

McHenry’s prose is clean, elegant, and compelling, and I finished the book in three nights.  At times heartbreaking, others hopeful,The Kitchen Daughter serves up a unique and unforgettable helping of fiction that lingers long after the last word is served.This is an excellent debut novel, and Jael McHenry has earned herself a faithful reader.

If you enjoy books of magical realism like Garden Spells or Like Water for Chocolate, you will love The Kitchen Daughter.


2 thoughts on “Review: The Kitchen Daughter

  1. Nice review, Erika. So looking forward to reading this novel. Congratulations and best wishes, Jael!

  2. I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time! Can’t wait to dig in!

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