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The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter

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The Kitchen Daughter

valoraciones:
4.5/5 (74 valoraciones)
Longitud:
309 página
4 horas
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Publicado:
Apr 12, 2011
ISBN:
9781439191965
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

Julie & Julia meets Jodi Picoult in this poignant and delectable novel with recipes, chronicling one woman’s journey of self-discovery at the stove.

After the unexpected death of her parents, shy and sheltered twenty-six-year-old Ginny Selvaggio, isolated by Asperger’s Syndrome, seeks comfort in 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—before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister Amanda insists on selling their parents’ house in Philadelphia, 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.

Offering a fascinating glimpse into the unique mind of a woman suffering from Asperger’s and featuring evocative and mouth-watering descriptions of food, this lyrical novel is as delicious and joyful as a warm brownie.
Editorial:
Publicado:
Apr 12, 2011
ISBN:
9781439191965
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who writes about food and cooking. She is a monthly pop culture columnist and editor-in-chief of Intrepid Media, online a IntrepidMedia.com. Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in New York City.


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Cotizaciones principales

  • How he lifted his chin up every time he looked at himself in the mirror in scrubs, and how he jerked his chin down whenever he looked at himself in the mirror in a suit.

  • This is how much life hurts. But even now, even in this pain, even in knowing that, I’d rather be living it than hiding from it.

  • The beaten-up shoes she refused to get rid of because of all the places they’d touched earth.

  • I can’t lick wooden spoons. I hate how they feel on my tongue.

  • Remember that the villain is the hero of his own story.

Vista previa del libro

The Kitchen Daughter - Jael McHenry

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FOR MY PARENTS,

KARL AND LYNNEA MCHENRY.

ALL THE BEST PARTS OF ME ARE YOU.

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Chapter One: Bread Soup

Chapter Two: Shortbread

Chapter Three: The Georgia Peach

Chapter Four: Midnight Cry Brownies

Chapter Five: Omelet

Chapter Six: Mulled Cider

Chapter Seven: Biscuits and Gravy

Chapter Eight: Butternut Squash Soup

Chapter Nine: Hard-boiled Eggs

Chapter Ten: Chicken Soup

Chapter Eleven: Homemade Play-Doh

Chapter Twelve: Hot Chocolate

Chapter Thirteen: Aji de Gallina

Chapter Fourteen: Hot Chocolate

Chapter Fifteen: Ribollita

Acknowledgments

So many generous and wonderful people have contributed to The Kitchen Daughter in countless ways. I could have filled every page of this book with your names. Instead, here is a shorter list of some of my larger debts.

Huge thanks to my brilliant agent Elisabeth Weed and my remarkable editor Lauren McKenna for reading the manuscript that was and recognizing what it could become. I see your patience, diligence, and insight on every page. I’m also immensely grateful to Megan McKeever, Jean Anne Rose, Ayelet Gruenspecht, and everyone else at Gallery Books for their expertise and assistance as I did this whole publication thing for the first time. Many thanks to Kathleen Zrelak, Jenny Meyer, Blair Bryant Nichols, Stephanie Sun, and Samuel Krowchenko for their help with publicity, foreign rights, speaking engagements, and much more. If any of you are reading this without homemade brownies in hand, give me a call and we’ll fix that.

For reading, editing, brainstorming, fact-checking, naming, suggesting, taste-testing, inspiring, advising, and when I needed it, just listening: Michelle Von Euw, Erin Baggett, Heather Brewer, Joan Cadigan and the St. John’s Book Club, Robb Cadigan, Russ Carr, Linda Cambier, Pam Claughton, Keith Cronin, Karen Dionne, Chris Graham, Dan Hornberger, Lynne Griffin, Tracey Kelley, Derek Lee of The Best Food Blog Ever (bestfoodblogever.com), Juli McCarthy, Derek McHenry, Heather McHenry, Randy Susan Meyers, Amy Sue Nathan, Joe Procopio, Kennan Rapp and Rocio Malpica Rapp, Margaret Schaum, Dr. Ariane Schneider, Therese Walsh, and Barbara Yost.

My critique group, for dead-on insight and never-ending encouragement: Ken Kraus, Shelley Nolden, Kelly O’Donnell, Rick Spilman, and Bruce Wood.

My writers’ strategy group, for support and ideas and good company: Camille Noe Pagán, Emma Johnson, Maris Kreizman, Siobhan O’Connor, and Laura Vanderkam.

For writing brilliantly about Asperger’s syndrome, from the outside and the inside: Dr. Tony Attwood, Gavin Bollard, John Elder Robison, and the women from all over the spectrum who contributed to Women From Another Planet?: Our Lives in the Universe of Autism.

Everyone at Backspace (bksp.org), Intrepid Media (intrepidmedia.com), and Writer Unboxed (writerunboxed.com). I’m honored to be a part of some of the best writing communities online. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friends and family everywhere, from Philadelphia to Petoskey and Westwood to Wasilla, for your love and support. I owe you all more than I can say.

And of course to my husband Jonathan, with whom I share everything, including a brain, and all the credit.

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.

—BRILLAT-SAVARIN

Eat what is cooked; listen to what is said.

—RUSSIAN PROVERB

CHAPTER ONE

Bread Soup

Bad things come in threes. My father dies. My mother dies. Then there’s the funeral.

Other people would say these are all the same bad news. For me, they’re different.

The cemetery is the easiest part. There’s a soothing low voice, the caskets are closed, and I can just stand and observe like I’m not there at all. The man in the robe talks (celebrated surgeon … loving mother …) and then Amanda does (a shock to all of us … best parents we could have ever …). I keep my eyes on the girls, Amanda’s daughters, Shannon and Parker. They’re younger than I was at my first funeral. This, at twenty-six, is my second.

It’s cold. They must have heated the ground to dig the graves. The soil wouldn’t yield to a shovel otherwise. Not in December, not in Philadelphia. I know that from the garden.

After Amanda finishes talking, she walks back toward us and leans against her husband. She makes a choking sound and I can see Brennan’s arm reaching out to hold her. She bends her head down, leaning further in, until she’s almost hidden. Held in Brennan’s other arm, Parker drops a Cheerio and makes a little O shape with her tiny mouth. Dismay, surprise, something. I hope she doesn’t start crying. Everyone is crying but me and the girls. They don’t because they’re too young. I don’t because I don’t feel like this is really happening.

A new voice, a man’s voice, goes on. I don’t listen to the words. It doesn’t feel real, this funeral. It doesn’t feel like I’m here. Maybe that’s a good thing. Here is not somewhere I want to be. Dad’s gone. Ma’s gone. I’m not ready.

I look at hands clutching tissues. I watch feet shifting back and forth on the uneven ground. All the toes point in the same direction until, by a signal I miss, they don’t. I walk slowly so I don’t trip. Amanda reaches back and gestures. I follow her to the car. We travel back home by an unfamiliar road. I stare down at my black skirt, dusted with white cat hair, and feel the pinch of my narrow black shoes.

But at home, things are worse. There isn’t even a moment for me to be alone before the house fills up. Strangers are here. Disrupting my patterns. Breathing my air. I’m not just bad at crowds, crowds are bad at me. If it were an ordinary day, if things were right and not wrong, I’d be sitting down with my laptop to read Kitcherati, but my laptop is up in my attic room on the third floor. There are too many bodies between me and the banister and I can’t escape upstairs. This is my only home and I know every inch of it, but right now it is invaded. If I look up I’ll see their faces so instead I look down and see all their feet. Their shoes are black like licorice or brown like brisket, tracking in the winter slush and salt from the graveyard and the street. Dozens.

Without meaning to listen, I still hear certain things. I catch Isn’t she the older one? and Not standing up for the people who raised you right, I just can’t say and Strange enough when she was a girl but now it’s downright weird and Caroline always did spoil her something awful. I keep moving around to escape attention, but these conversations fall silent around me, and that’s how I know it’s me they mean. When people aim their condolences at me, I say Thank you, and count to three, and move away. Once I find myself in a corner and can’t move but Amanda comes to move the other person instead. I feel rescued.

It gets warmer, worse, like they’re not just inside the house, they’re inside my body. Stomping around on the lining of my stomach. Swinging from my ribs. They’re touching everything in the house, pale fingers like nocturnal worms swarming over picture frames and the doorknobs and the furniture, and if they get to me they’ll crawl and cluster all over my skin.

I look up, away, searching for something reassuring. These things are the same as ever, I tell myself. These things have not changed. The ornate plaster molding, a foot-wide tangle of branching, swirling shapes, lines the wide white ceiling. Tall doors stretch up twice as tall as the people, twelve thirteen fourteen feet high. There’s plenty of room, up there. It’s my home. These are its bones. Good bones.

Then I feel warm breath and someone’s solid bread-dough bulk, only a couple of feet away. It’s one of the great-aunts. I recognize the moles on her throat. She says, I’m so sorry, Ginevra. You must miss them terribly.

Her hand is close to my arm. My options are limited. I can’t run away. I can’t handle this.

I lose myself in food.

The rich, wet texture of melting chocolate. The way good aged goat cheese coats your tongue. The silky feel of pasta dough when it’s been pressed and rested just enough. How the scent of onions changes, over an hour, from raw to mellow, sharp to sweet, and all that even without tasting. The simplest magic: how heat transforms.

The great-aunt says, You miss them, don’t you?

I want to respond to her question, I know that’s the polite thing to do, but I don’t know what to say. It’s only been three days. Missing them won’t bring them back. And what difference does it, would it, make? I haven’t seen this woman since I was six. I’m not likely to see her again for years. What’s it to her, how I feel?

In my mind, I am standing over a silver skillet of onions as they caramelize. The warmth I feel is the warmth of the stove. I’ve already salted the onions and they are giving up their shape, concentrating their flavor. In my imaginary hand I have a wooden spoon, ready to stir.

Ginevra, dear? the great-aunt says.

Auntie Connie, interrupts Amanda’s voice. Thank you so much for coming.

Connie says, Your sister seems distraught.

I nod. Distraught. Yes.

Amanda says, Ginny’s having a tough time. We all are.

I see her hand resting on Connie’s shoulder, cupped over the curve of it, her fingers tight. I peek at Amanda’s face and her eyes are still red and painful-looking from the tears. I wish I could comfort her. I concentrate on her familiar gold ring. It’s the color of onion skin. Yellow onions aren’t really yellow, it’s just what they’re called. Just like dinosaur kale isn’t made from dinosaurs and blood oranges don’t bleed.

It’s a shame what happened. Terrible shame. You should sue, Connie says.

We’re thinking about it, says Amanda.

They were so young, says Connie.

I say, They weren’t that young, because they weren’t. Dad was sixty-five. Ma just turned fifty-nine. We had her birthday two weeks ago, right before they left. She made her own cake. She always did. Red velvet.

We miss them something awful, says Amanda, not to me. Her voice is unsteady. We’re so glad you and Uncle Rick could come, Connie. Do you want to come meet your great-nieces?

Oh, yes please, we don’t get up here very often anymore, says Connie. She lets herself be ushered away. But in the next moment there’s another someone coming toward me and I just can’t stand this, all these shoes, all these bodies. There are only so many times my sister can rescue me. Two, three, five—have I used them up already?

Crowding my right shoulder is a man with no hair, his head as pale and moist as a chicken breast. His breath smells like bean water.

Ginny of the bright blue eyes! The last time I saw you you were so small! So small! Like this! he exclaims, gesturing, his hand parallel to the floor.

Got bigger, I mumble. I have to escape somehow, so I excuse myself without excusing myself and head for the kitchen. Five steps, six, seven, praying no one follows me. When I get there, I’m still shaken. I pull the folding doors closed.

Breathe. This is home, and it feels like home. All rectangles and squares. The kitchen is a great big white cube like a piece of Ma’s Corningware. Tall white cupboards, some wood, some glass, stretch up toward the long leaded glass rectangles of the skylight. Next to the fridge we have a step stool because only Dad is tall enough to reach the top shelf of the cupboards without it. One whole wall is lined with shelves of cookbooks, bright rectangles of color sealed behind glass-paned doors, which protect them from kitchen air. Ma’s books on the left, mine on the right. A floor of black-and-white square tiles stretches out toward the far wall, where there’s a deep flat sink, itself made up of rectangles. The wide white counters are rectangles, and so are the gray subway tiles of the backsplash above them. In the center is Ma’s butcher block, which was once her own mother’s, a rectangular wooden column with a slight curve worn down into the middle over the years. The single square window has an herb garden on its sill, four square pots in a row: chives, mint, rosemary, thyme. Any wall not covered with bookshelves or cupboards is rectangular brick. Other people call it exposed brick but I don’t. It is painted over white, not exposed at all.

I kick off my shoes and feel cool tile under my bare feet. Better.

The hum of strange voices creeps in through the folding doors. I imagine Dad at the stove in his scrubs, shoulders rounded, hunched over and stirring a pot of Nonna’s bread soup. He is so tall. I take the hum of the strangers’ voices and try to shift it, change it into a song he’s humming under his breath while he stirs.

All those people. All those shoes. I need to block out their bulk, their nearness, their noise.

Nonna’s books are on my side of the cabinet, which is alphabetized. I reach down to the lowest shelf for a worn gray spine labeled Tuscan Treasures.

When I open it a handwritten recipe card falls out. At the top of the card Best Ribollita is written in loose, spooled handwriting. I never learned Italian. The first time I knew that bread soup and ribollita were the same thing was at her funeral. I looked it up afterward in the dictionary. It was on the same page as ribbon and rice and rickshaw.

My heart is still beating too fast. I dive inside the recipe and let it absorb me. I let the instructions take me over, step by step by step, until the hum begins to fade to silence.

I draw the knife from the block, wary of its edge, and lay it down next to the cutting board while I gather the garlic and onion. The garlic only has to be crushed with the broad side of the knife and peeled. I lay the blade flat on top of the garlic clove and bring down my fist. It makes a satisfying crunch.

The onion has more of a trick to it. Carefully, slowly, I slice the onion through the middle to make a flat side and slip my thumb under the dry gold-brown peel, exposing the smooth whiteness underneath. I lay half the bare onion flat on the cutting board and use the tip of the knife to nip off the top and the root end. I curl my fingers underneath to keep them away from the blade. The recipe says coarsely chopped, so I cut thick slices, then hold the sliced onion back together while I cut again in the other direction. I take my time. The knife snicks quietly against the cutting board. The sound relaxes me. There’s a rhythm to this. Onion and garlic in the pot. Sizzle them in oil. Check the instructions again.

Gather and open cans. Drain the can of beans, rinse them. The recipe calls for canned tomatoes broken up by hand, so I hold each one over the pot and push through the soft flesh with my thumb, squirting juice out, before tearing the tomato into chunks. The juice in the can is cold from the cabinet. Ripping up the tomatoes makes my fingers feel grainy. Something, maybe the acid, irritates my skin. I rinse my hands and dry them on the white towel that hangs next to the sink.

Wash and dry the kale, slice out each rib, cut the leaves in thin ribbons. Drop. Stir. Square off cubes of bread from a peasant loaf, football shaped. Cubes from a curved loaf, there’s a trick to that, but I do my best. Everything goes in. I thought I remembered cheese, but when I double-check the recipe, it’s not there. Salt, pepper. I adjust the heat to bring the soup down from an energetic boil to a bare simmer. That’s the last of the instructions. The spicy, creamy, comforting scent of ribollita drifts upward. I breathe it in.

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.

Nonetheless, she’s right there. Wearing what she wore and looking how she looked in 1991.

In my grief, I am hallucinating. I must be.

She says, "Hello, uccellina."

The name she had for me, Little Bird, from the mouth that spoke it. I am hallucinating the voice as well. Low, sharp, familiar. The first time I tasted espresso I thought, This is what Nonna sounded like. This is her. The whole Nonna, solid. Right here, sitting in the kitchen.

She can’t be. Can’t be, but is.

You are surprise? says Nonna. But you bring me here.

Her rough English. Her salt-and-pepper hair, the pattern of it along the hairline, unchanged. Same sweater pushed up to her elbows, each row of yellow stitches tight and even like corn kernels on the cob. Same once-white Keds. She looks as she should. Except that she shouldn’t, at all.

Don’t be afraid, she says, and I wasn’t until she says it but then I am, and I would flee except that the only way out is through a crowd of strangers who want to put their swarming, sweating hands on me and given that, there is really no escape.

I back against the glass cabinets and say, Nonna, what’s going on? Why are you here?

Nonna says, You bring me with the smell of ribollita, and I bring the message. I come to tell you. Do no let her.

Her? Who?

The folding doors swing open. Cooler, fresher air pours in, bringing the murmuring sound of the invaders, which fades as the doors swing shut. I hear one shoe strike the squares of the kitchen tile, then another. I can’t close my ears so I close my eyes.

What smells so good?

Silence.

Ginny, what are you doing? Are you cooking something, what for? Are you okay?

I open my eyes just a sliver. Nonna is gone. I see Auntie Connie’s yeast-colored shoes. I smell her beerlike smell. Then too late I see her fingers, reaching.

Contact.

When someone touches me wrong it isn’t a feeling. It isn’t hate or fear or pain. It is just blackness and a chant in me: get/out/get/out/get/out.

I push past Connie, I can feel bone under the flesh of her shoulder like the shank end of a ham, and I nearly trip on the step down into the next room and everyone is there, not just shoes but knees and elbows and torsos and open mouths. I have to get out, but they’re all in my way. I shove through. I feel oven-hot skin, clammy fish-flesh skin, damp chicken-liver skin, they’re all around me. My heart beats faster, the chant matching, get/out/get/out/get. Out of the question to go all the way upstairs. Need whatever’s right here.

I duck into the coat closet and pull the closet door shut fast fast fast and turn away from the sliver of light under the door. I reach for Dad’s rain boots. They squeak against each other like cheese curds. I kneel down, pull them up into my lap, and shove my hands inside. Leather would be better but this particular old rubber-boot smell is still a Dad smell.

The onions, I need the idea of the onions, I soothe myself with it. Slowly growing golden. Giving off that scent, the last of the raw bite mixed with the hint of the sweetness to come. I press my forehead down against my knees, crushing the boots between my chest and thighs. My forehead is hot. My knees are hot. Thin, long strands shaved on a mandoline start as solid half-moons and melt away over time. More salt? No, just patience. Stir. Wait. Adjust the heat. Wait. Stir.

Light floods in. Real light.

Oh, Ginny, please. It’s Amanda’s voice. She has a voice like orange juice, sweet but sharp. Right now it’s watery and harsh with tears. I look down and see her shoes, glossy and black as trash bags. The pointed toes make triangles against the floor.

I’m sorry, I whisper. I reach out to pull the door shut but with my booted hand I can’t do it. The wide round toe of the boot thuds uselessly against the door.

She bends down to me, speaking softly. You can do this, she says. You were doing fine before. You were just fine.

I shake my head no, no, no. I wasn’t fine. She can’t tell that. She only sees the outside, which isn’t how I feel at all.

She puts one hand on the toe of a boot. She says, Can’t you come out? It isn’t for much longer, I promise.

I say, No.

She puts her other hand on the other boot. But my hands are protected. I can’t feel anything.

It’s hard enough without this, she says. I’m barely holding it together, and I can’t have you melting down on top of everything else right now. Don’t you understand? Don’t you realize how this looks?

I open my mouth to apologize again when a high-pitched siren drowns everything out. Amanda’s hands vanish first and then her toes. I hate noise but I know what this one is, and she can handle it. By twisting my wrist and using the heel of the boot to catch the edge I manage to pull the door shut again, and although I close my eyes against the light I can smell the smoke in my nose, a charred, acrid smell. Vegetal, not chemical. Angry voices. Amanda shouting, Don’t worry, it’s just in the kitchen, everyone, it’s okay.

Amanda always takes care of things, whatever happens. She’s like Ma that way. Trusting her is like relaxing into a hot bath. Or, like it used to feel when I took baths. I don’t anymore because steeping in hot water makes me feel like an ingredient. An egg, a noodle, a lobster. Now I take showers.

I press myself tight against the closet wall and take deep breaths. The siren stops and the only sound is chattering voices. I fade the noise away. I focus on the feeling of my hands in the rain boots, the warm closeness around me. The feeling of Dad nearby. A reassuring presence. But then when I think of Dad, I think of Nonna’s ghost, in the kitchen with me. So real.

Her warning.

Do no let her.

I push my body against the back of the closet but there’s nowhere further or darker to go. I stretch my fingers all the way down into the toes of Dad’s boots. I close my eyes and think of onions, how over time they change in predictable and expected ways, if you handle them correctly. If you do it right, there are no surprises. Ma said You can’t get honey from an onion but it turns out that, in a way, you can.

In my life I’ve had good days and bad days. Miserable days. Painful days. And no matter how bad the bad ones get, there’s a mercy in them. Every single one of them ends.

This one, thank goodness, does too.

CHAPTER TWO

Shortbread

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  • (4/5)
    This was a good read. I liked the "magical" elements of the recipes and the characters.
  • (5/5)
    An excellent read. If you like Like Water for Chocolate, then you'll enjoy this book. When Ginny cooks a handwritten recipe the person who wrote it appears in her kitchen.
  • (5/5)
    I read this book in 2 days during my vacation. I loved it!
  • (5/5)
    I cannot say I loved this book, but I was fascinated with the skill of the authors only ability to educate the reader of the problems facing persons with this syndrome. thank you.
  • (5/5)
    this book is so great, would recommend to everyone who reads words
  • (5/5)
    Quirky, gripping, and incredible character development. This book is definitely one of my new favorites!
  • (5/5)
    From Lilac Wolf and Stuff:The cover art is phenomenal on this one. It's a mesh bag holding red peppers, but it's shaped in a way to look like a tank top on a woman. It feels comfortable.I knew before reading that this is a book about a young woman with Asperger's Syndrome, but I was shocked to see that she had no idea. Her parents had always told her she had a "personality" and sheltered her probably more than they needed to.She loves to cook and is actually great at it. She makes her Nonna's bread soup for comfort during the wake after her parents funeral - all the people touching her and talking to her just push it too far. She flees to the kitchen and finds her Nonna's recipe and when she makes it, her Nonna comes to the kitchen. And that starts the journey...she makes a person's recipe, a recipe written in their own hand, and the ghost of said person shows up.In doing this, Ginny starts a journey where she learns secrets in her family she never would have guessed. When she finds a letter of apology from her father to her mother along with pictures of a strange woman, she thinks he had an affair. The truth is so far from that mark...it rocks her to her very core.She gets diagnosed with the syndrome, and being so smart she takes the advice of her doctor and makes her way out of the house and into life. Proving to herself and her sister that she really can make it on her own. And maybe someday she really will get married and have children of her own.I think this book also highlights the dangers of refusing labels. Yes labeling can be bad, but when you avoid it too much, you can miss out on the help your child may need. Ginny's mom wouldn't let the teachers label her, but in doing that Ginny never got the extra help that would have allowed her to fit in more and function outside the house.This is exactly the kind of story that I love. And I especially loved Ginny because even though I have never been diagnosed with asperger's syndrome, I can relate to her difficulty with people. I'm not big on touching and I never know the right thing to say or do. Ginny really touched me...this whole story and all the characters touched me.
  • (4/5)
    Originally posted on Read Handed.Jael McHenry's debut novel, The Kitchen Daughter, revolves around food. The main character, Ginny, uses the routine and rhythm of cooking as a way to escape people - most of whom make her uncomfortable. But, ironically, in the end it is cooking and food that bring her into community with family and new friends. Ginny has undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome and is uncomfortable with touch, noise, and chaos. She is socially awkward and has trouble reading social and emotional cues in the people around her.Ginny's world turns upside down when both of her parents die unexpectedly from carbon monoxide poisoning. At the get-together after the funeral, Ginny is overwhelmed by good-intentioned friends and relatives and sneaks away to the kitchen. She cooks a batch of her grandmother's ribollita (bread soup) for comfort, and is surprised to see Nonna's ghost appear. She says, "You bring me with the smell of ribollita, and I bring the message. I come to tell you. Do no let her" (pg. 8).As Ginny puzzles over the message, she discovers that she can bring back any one's ghost by cooking a recipe that person had written in his or her own handwriting. She uses this power to discover more about her family's past and figure out what to do about her sister Amanda's plan to sell their parents' house and have Ginny move in with her and her family.McHenry does an excellent job getting the reader inside Ginny's head. For example: "It gets warmer, worse, like they're not just inside the house, they're inside my body. Stomping around on the lining of my stomach. Swinging from my ribs. They're touching everything in the house, pale fingers like nocturnal worms swarming over picture frames and the doorknobs and the furniture, and if they get to me they'll crawl and cluster all over my skin" (pg. 3).In her narration, Ginny uses food metaphors often, which makes perfect sense given her obsession with cooking and food. She likens voices to flavors - Amanda sounds like orange juice, Nonna like espresso, her mother like spearmint, the housekeeper Gert like poppy seeds. She also tries to express her emotions using food: "So this is what distraught feels like. It feels like a stomachache. It feels like a firm hand wringing out the paltry juice from a Key lime or a French press squeezing the flavor from coffee grounds. It feels like the air bladder that winemakers use to press the juice from the grapes, which they say is gentle but still presses, presses, presses until all the liquid has leaked out and pooled. I've read about that. It's easy to imagine" (pg. 26).Oftentimes, food can be a comfort and bring people together. At one point in the story, Gert asks for Ginny's help preparing a meal of consolation for a grieving family in Gert's Jewish community. When Ginny asks why, Gert answers, "But you shouldn't stay [in the house] all the time. You can do more" (pg. 151). Gert understands that healing can come through service to others. Ginny can use her gift - cooking - to help others in her community.
  • (4/5)
    Ginny, a twenty-something chef-extraordinaire finds solace in her family kitchen as a means of avoiding people and the world around her. Often referring to her Normal Book and multiple blogs and websites for advice and cooking information, Ginny lives a quiet life in the safe shelter of her mother and father. When they both pass away in an accident, Ginny must grapple with her world turning upside down, and to cope, turns to the kitchen's familiar scents and tastes. However, she is now able to summon the spirits who created the beloved recipes she holds dear, and these spirits reveal information to her that will change her reality. It's a quick read with the smell and taste of food really brought to life by the author's words; for me, this was the best part of the book. Worth a read if you enjoy foodie fiction.
  • (3/5)
    Loved it. Actually copied some recipes!
  • (4/5)
    I picked this up to read and quickly realized that I had already read it but it's missing in my LIbraryThing list! The Aspergers aspect was what originally attracted me. Not sure why I missed listing it here at the actual time I read it (horrors!).
  • (3/5)
    A good novel that gives us insight into peop;e living with Asperger's disease and how we define normal. It also makes us think about our relationships with family and friends.
  • (3/5)
    I would really give this book a 3.5 stars. It was interesting and quite mystical a bit like a mix between Isabel Allende and Joanne Harris.
  • (4/5)
    Amazing telling of how the dead communicate with us - do you feel it, teachings from the afterlife come in the form of baking and cooking. Delightful read - another story of the struggles we face in life,
  • (4/5)
    Insights into life with Asperger's, great recipies, and lots of thoughts about what make us who we are and our relationships with our family and friends.
  • (5/5)
    Author Jael McHenry has written the sort of novel I just crave when the world feels too big. The narrator, Ginny, lives with Asperger's syndrome. She is finely attuned to all the small things that assault our senses even in the gentlest ways, and it becomes the reader's privilege to experience the textures and aromas that Ginny does, in the ways she does. By the end of this deeply affecting novel, Ginny's disability seems more gift than burden. A delight in every sense, and most highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is an amazing book. Jael McHenry is able to climb into the mind of a fictional character with Asperger's Syndrome and tell her thoughts so believably.My brother has severe autism so I read everything that I can on it and Asperger's Syndrome. After finishing this book, I feel this is the best one written so far!Ginny Selvaggio's father and mother have just died while on a trip. Ginny is left in the house that she grew up in with just someone who comes in from time to time to clean. She is in shock about the death and now her sister Amanda thinks the house should be sold! Ginny can't deal with it. She retreats to the kitchen to cook.Cooking is the only way that she can soothe herself and get away from the frightening world. She tries that when many people from the funeral come to the house but something happens and she retreats again to a closet and to the familiar touch of her father's shoes. Selling the house that she grew up in means another grief for Ginny so she desparetly resists with everything that she can try. When helping her sister pack up her parents things, Ginny uncovers some secrets of her family and begins to investigate. But the best story of this book is not the mysteries but Ginny herself.I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about Asperger's Syndrome and Autism or those who love a book that won't let go of you from page one.
  • (4/5)
    Seeking comfort in traditional family culinary practices after the early deaths of her parents, twenty-six-year-old Asperger’s patient Ginny struggles with her domineering sister’s decision to sell the house, troubling secrets, and the ghost of a dead ancestor. Summary BPLNote:The above summary is somewhat inaccurate: Ginny thinks about food and cooks to self-soothe. Also, she is not diagnosed in the book as having Asperger’s and is therefore, not a “patient”.A surprisingly well-told story. Kitchen Daughter begins with a twist: a main character who is able to conjure up spirits by following their recipes to the letter. These ghosts guide her through the turbulent weeks after the death of her parents as she struggles with her older sister about the disposition of the family home. Ginny is an atypical heroine but I was definitely on her side when she resisted her sister’s well-intentioned but self-serving plans to sell the family home and have her move in with her. 8.5 out of 10 Kitchen Daughter will be a satisfying read for food enthusiasts—Ms McHenry’s description practically amounts to virtual cooking—and for fans of quirky heroines with offbeat stories.
  • (5/5)
    Ginny has just lost her parents to a tragic accident. She lived with them in a magnificent old home in Philadelphia and was not at all prepared either emotionally or in reality for them to be gone. She is living with undiagnosed Asperger's and her parents had protected her all throughout her life. After the funeral her sister blows in like a tornado trying to take over her life and sell the house and take her away from everything she has ever known. Her sister refuses to accept that Ginny is capable and Ginny refuses to accept that something could be wrong with her.Ginny's way of coping with stress is to cook; whether in a real kitchen or in her head cooking and recipes soothe her. As she recreates recipes from people in her past she finds she can bring their ghostly presence to a form of life in her kitchen where they bring her messages that help her move forward.I truly enjoyed this unique tale of Philadelphia, cooking and sisters. I don't have a sister but I have always tried to imagine what it would be like. Cooking is a fantastic way to settle the mind to a task and have a measurable result at the end. The emotional storyline is powerful as the two sisters try to deal with the sudden loss of two very loved parents. As the girls go through the house and pack up their parents' belongings they find lessons in their pasts and secrets that have been hidden for years. Those secrets, had they not been kept might have made significant differences for Ginny but she only learns this too late. But it's not too late to perhaps help her sister when she needs that help the most.I found myself truly wrapped up in this story in spite of the fantastical aspects. It was a book that packed an emotional punch on many different levels. The sisters had a lot to work out between them and Ginny had some serious growing up to do. The cooking and recipes are an added bonus.
  • (5/5)
    After the unexpected death of her parents, Ginny finds comfort in the sensory experience of cooking. By making specific recipes, she is able to conjure up ghosts that help her understand herself and her connection with others. At the end of the book, there are new relationships and hope for the future. This is a well written book, without the sentimentalizing and stereotyping of folks with Asperger’s syndrome seen that is seen in a lot of books and movies…I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • (5/5)
    Summary: The death of Ginny Selvaggio's parents has left Ginny's world turned upside-down. Overwhelmed by the crush of people at the funeral, and suddenly left alone for the first time in her life, Ginny turns to the familiar rituals of cooking to comfort herself. However, as she makes her grandmother's recipe for ribollita off a time-worn, hand-written recipe card, her grandmother herself appears on a stool in the corner of the kitchen. Ginny's obviously startled - she's never seen a ghost before - but her grandmother only has time for a single cryptic warning before she fades away again: "Do no let her." Ginny's not sure who she's supposed to stop from doing what; maybe she's supposed not supposed to let her brusquely practical sister Amanda sell the only house Ginny's even known? Or is it connected to some secret her parents were keeping, a secret that Ginny is only beginning to uncover now that they're gone?Review: This book was sneakily, surprisingly wonderful. I love food-centered books, and books with recipes, so I was expecting to love those parts, and the book didn't let me down: the food writing is very evocative, and absolutely brings the smells and the textures and the tastes of Ginny's kitchen to life. (I've only tried one of the recipes so far - the Georgia Peach cocktail - but it is dangerously delicious.) But the whole food-summoning-ghosts thing is only a part of this novel, and maybe not even the biggest part, and the wonderfulness of all the rest was what really surprised me.Ginny is a wonderful narrator, immediately recognizable (at least to me) and intensely sympathetic. I loved the view into the ways her mind worked, her ways of coping with a suddenly unfamiliar and hostile world, the contrast between the forms taken by her grief vs. that of her sister. The strong connection I felt with Ginny made this book incredibly touching; I cried more than a little when she finally got her last reunion with - and chance to say goodbye to - her parents.But most of all, I really appreciated the fact that despite the pressure from her sister, and from the world at large, Ginny refused to give in and see herself as broken or strange. The message that there's no such thing as normal struck a strong chord with me, and I think it's one that's applicable not just to people with (or people who know people with) Asperger's, but to anyone who's ever felt isolated or misunderstood. 4.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Definitely worth a read for anyone who likes food-based fiction - there's more than a touch of Like Water For Chocolate about it - but it also should appeal to folks who liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or anyone who likes compelling contemporary fiction told from a unique point of view.
  • (4/5)
    This book is about a young lady with Aspergers, with the sudden death of her parents, her sheltered life is changed and with her sister urging her to sell her parents home she becomes frantic. What keeps her together is her passion for food and her Normal book. Through cooking she conjures up ghost and her life goes on a journey of twists and turns.
  • (5/5)
    CoverI love this cover ... of course, I'm also a foodie so that may have something to do with it. But if you look at the cover as an art piece, you see the dark strength of the bag against the rich, vibrant redness of the peppers ... all of it set in front of a non-essential disappearing background causing the peppers to really catch the reader's eye ... it is simple, elegant and beautiful.Plot/Main CharactersBrilliance. It's not often I can say that about a debut author, but this time it fits. This book was published for the first time this past April and I can already tell you that it will be a favorite on many people's reading list.We have a main character who has a disease, but doesn't want to accept her disease. She, Ginny, doesn't want to be labeled. She defines her quirkiness as having a personality. She is strong-willed, opinionated and has a strong desire to be allowed her independence.Her sister, Amanda, is a heifer ... sorry, but that's the nicest thing I'll say about her. I understood that she wanted to take care of Ginny, but she wouldn't even listen to what Ginny had to say. She didn't even consider how Ginny felt about the housing situation. She just automatically thought that because she was "normal" she knew better. Oh, how I wanted to slap this lady.Despite Amanda's overbearing personality, despite being lied to and tricked by Amanda, Ginny proves herself capable of living alone. She proves that she has what it takes to master her disease when she needs to, when it's important for her to.OverallI fell in love with this story. I love the addition of the family recipes at the beginning of several chapters. I loved that the main character had Asperger's syndrome. I loved Ginny's tenacity in dealing with her situation. I loved the unusual twist of preparing a loved one's handwritten recipe in order to bring about the ghost of the dead.If Jael McHenry continues her wonderful talent for writing in her next book, I will have a new favorite author to add to my list. The Kitchen Daughter is a wonderful addition to any family library and I recommend it to all of you.
  • (4/5)
    This was great! It was a very enjoyable mix of family, food, and magical realism fiction, with a very appealing narrator. I'd recommend it to book clubs, people who enjoy fiction featuring cooking and food, and fans of Alice Hoffman or Sarah Addison Allen. Ginny is a very shy young woman with Aspergers, though she doesn't know it. She copes with stimulation overload by cooking or imagining cooking, with all its evocative tastes and smells and textures. Recipes are included. She is an excellent chef, though not formally schooled. She and her sister Amanda have just lost their parents in an accident. Amanda, who lives with her husband and small kids, wants to sell the house, while Ginny doesn't want any changes. Ginny finds that her cooking can draw up family members' ghosts, who seem to be warning her about something. What she learns about her family history, her personal growth, and the sisters' relationship is the crux of the novel's plot. The book comes out in April 2011; I read an advance reader's copy courtesy of Bookbrowse.
  • (5/5)
    I was drawn to this story because of food. I share this same feeling with the main character in the story. Food is what comforts Ginny and it's used a lot in this book. From recipes that she makes from scratch to thinking about what she's going to make to going out and buying ingredients, food is the key to making Ginny feel at peace with herself. There are lots of yummy descriptions of the dishes she makes as well as several recipes including ones that bring back loved ones from the grave. The main focal point of the story is Ginny finding out that certain recipes will bring back those who have been dead as the smell of the food draws them back to our world. While they are here, the ghostly apparitions tell Ginny revelations of secrets they have kept hidden their entire lives. It's up to her to use them in a way that can help others.The part of the book that stuck out most to me was Ginny and Amanda's relationship. It's obvious that the two of them love each other. Amanda is the younger sister but because of Ginny's personality, she feels that she has to act as the older sibling. It's easy to understand her frustration because she doesn't think that Ginny acts "normal". Her own life sounds a bit hectic and she wants to put closure on her parents' death yet she can't because she knows that Ginny needs that familiarity in her life. Some readers might not like her but I felt like I could understand what she was going through. The two sisters are different as night and day but their relationship is a close one.If there was anything that I felt to be disappointing in the book, it was the secret that was finally revealed by Ginny and Amanda's dad. From the way it had been hinted throughout the book and how their mom's ghost said not to tell Amanda, I was sure that she was the product of an illicit affair and not really Ginny's sister. Not that I was angry with the truth or felt deceived, but it was a bit of a let down after so much build up. I was really surprised at the final outcome of the book. That situation totally caught me off guard and I wasn't expecting it at all. In fact it made me quite sad as I finished the story. It's not that I need everything neat and tidy and I do realize that life doesn't always work out the way wanted. I just was hoping for something and it didn't come true.This is the first story that I have read that deals with a character who has Asperger's Syndrome characteristics. I found it very interesting to learn more about this type of personality as well as see what it is like for the person who is going through it first hand. This gave me a new insight on Ginny's character and I enjoyed reading her story. This is a wonderful debut from Jael McHenry and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
  • (4/5)
    The Kitchen Daughter is an insightful and engaging debut by Jael McHenry. Ginny Selvaggio is a young woman whose social awkwardness and literal interpretation of the world has caused difficulties in accomplishing tasks usually associated with maturity. At 26 she still lives at home, doesn't work and relies on her parents to provide for her. Her parents, in particular in her mother, has encouraged Ginny's dependence in what has been a misguided attempt to protect Ginny from distress and judgement. When her parents die unexpectedly, Ginny comforts herself by cooking, only to conjure the spirit of her deceased grandmother who gives her a cryptic warning.Ginny Selvaggio is an unique character, beautifully written by Jael McHenry. From the outset, Ginny's thoughts and behaviour are recognisably unusual. Ginny's dislike of eye contact and her retreat to a darkened closet when she is overwhelmed by the guests at her parents wake are immediately suggestive of Asperger's for those that are aware of the syndrome. McHenry captures the moments of Ginny's emotional reactions in a way that feels authentic, from the coping methods she uses to the almost detached and analytical way she responds to the challenges she faces. McHenry also gives Ginny a distinct voice, with the short sentences and blunt communication that is characteristic of someone with Asperger's. Ginny's affinity with food, its flavor, texture and smell, as well as the comfort and sense of pride she derives from cooking it is wonderfully portrayed, and humanises her story with some enticing recipes.The appearance of the ghosts that visit Ginny is handled well, the context is not over dramatised and gives the book a touch of magic and even whimsy. It is somehow perfectly acceptable that Ginny can conjure something ordinary people can not.The supporting characters in The Kitchen Daughter are well developed, Amanda, Ginny's sister, seems unreasonable even as you acknowledge that her intentions are good. I was properly indignant over her trickery and frustrated by her attempts to steamroll her sister.Gert's role is invaluable as an unobtrusive support for Ginny, even though she makes only brief appearances. Her own personal history underscores the theme of learning from experiencing life's sorrows and joys, a vital lesson for Ginny to process.My one disappointment in the novel centers around David, not that I would have wanted a 'happy ever after' for two such complicated characters but I was saddened by the events that separate he and Ginny.The Kitchen Daughter was a pleasure to read curled up on the lounge, I was drawn to the characters and completely engaged by the story. It is a heartwarming and thought provoking novel that is as endearing as it is satisfying. A wonderful read.
  • (4/5)
    Delightful but poignant book about a young woman with Aspergers trying to come to term with her parents death. She uses cooking as a way to calm herself when she finds situations beyond her coping skills. She find that when she cooks a handwritten recipe the writer of the recipe appears in her kitchen. In this way she finds the answers she needs to overcome problems with her sister and the way to a life on her terms.
  • (5/5)
    Ginny’s life is normal. Well, normal if you don’t take into account that she’s recently started seeing ghosts and that one of them happens to be her late grandmother. After the death of her parents, Ginny turns to what she knows best, the kitchen. It’s there, through the comfort of her grandmother’s Ribollita recipe that she appears and attempts to send her a message, “do not let her…”. Unfortunately that’s all she hears and then her grandmother is gone, leaving her with question after question. Not only that, but a sister who is insistent on running her life. With so many questions and little experience in the outside world she turns to what she knows best and discovers something completely unexpected.Are you a fan of Cecilia Ahern, Sarah Addison Allen, or Aimee Bender? If so, you will absolutely want to read The Kitchen Daughter. Recently there seems to have been a myriad of books centered around magical realism and I for one am actually a huge fan. I don’t generally like the overly paranormal, heavy duty fairies and werewolves type books (though there is a time and place for them), but these magical realism books are just perfect. Based enough in the real world with magic that is only slightly unbelievable, because who hasn’t heard of someone who can honestly see ghosts? Does that mean it actually happens? Who’s to say? But in these few select author’s writings they’ve mastered the art of bending reality and adding a glimmer to a normally ordinary setting; Jael McHenry is no exception.As for The Kitchen Daughter itself, I loved every bit of it. There were so many surprises, including Ginny’s character itself. I’ve not read many books that involve characters with Asperger’s or related tendencies, but the first that springs to mind is Jodi Picoult’s recent House Rules in which the main character is a young teenage boy that has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. What I enjoyed about Ginny’s character over that character was a difference in maturity, because at 26 she’s had quite a bit of time to become “comfortable” in her own skin but had still developed some traits that had been engrained into her subconscious. Being that the story was told from her point of view, it was interesting to see how she handled awkward situations and that most often it was with food. Her coping mechanism, outside of hiding in a closet, was to think of ingredients and slowly work herself through recipes in her mind. It was such a nice touch and reminded me a bit of Sarah Addison Allen’s writing.Not only was Ginny’s character intriguing regarding how she handled difficult situations due to having Asperger’s, but how she viewed herself compared to those around her. In her eyes she was normal and nothing more than a “personality.” I definitely spent some time, and still am, considering what exactly is normal? Why is it that as a society, instead of helping others with encouragement and understanding we choose to label them perhaps even giving them a “solution” in the form of a pill? That’s not to say every situation is like this and that there aren’t some that truly need medical help, but have we gotten too lax? Is it easier to label than to put the effort in and help? Though she wasn’t present through much of the book, I’d definitely say I admired Ginny’s mom. To think of all she struggled with, not only with helping Ginny, but with the teachers & parents that associated with Ginny and their opinions about her. It’s incredibly difficult. As a parent with a son who has a form of Autism I can completely relate and can honestly say I’m grateful for the insight Jael McHenry has shed on this topic, even if it is through fiction.As for the other characters, I’d have to say that Ginny’s sister Amanda in particular was not my favorite person. This may be because I was looking through Ginny’s eyes for much of the book and it wasn’t until the end that you are able to see Amanda’s side of the story. It’s difficult, life is difficult and joyous at the same time. Gert was the one who could truly see this and was by far my favorite character in the book. A friend and the housekeeper in Ginny’s home, Gert’s life had been filled with sorrow and joy, but no matter she was one of those stalwart people you turn to when things aren’t going well. An anchor for Ginny as well as all those around her.The Kitchen Daughter is one of those books that isn’t only magical while you’re reading, but leaves behind a trail of magic dust that touches you for days to come. Ginny’s character as told through the food she loves and the ways in which she uses it to conquer her fears is endearing and entirely unique. I will absolutely be thinking about and recommending this book for a long time to come. As a debut novelist I could think of no better way to start off than the way Jael McHenry has. Blending her love of food which she shares regularly on her blog as well as her talent for writing, I’m positive she is a writer we’ll be seeing much more from in the future.
  • (4/5)
    This is not your average, everyday novel. No, far from it. This debut is filled with emotions-all kinds (sadness, happiness, confusion, coping), humor, and lots of recipes. Jael McHenry is an author who, continuing to write novels like this, will rise to the top quickly. She drew me in to the instantly. I started it on a Tuesday evening and was done by Wednesday night. I don't have Asperger's, but I've known some people who do, and I was really interested in seeing how Ginny was portrayed in this novel having Asperger's. I was blown away! I actually felt myself drawn completely into Ginny's character-actually felt the things she did as she experienced the deaths of both her parents, and then her overbearing sister, Amanda. I've seen first hand that people with Asperger's deal with coping with life in so many different ways. Some withdraw into themselves, others reach out to others, and then there are the Ginny's of Asperger's: coping by doing something they love and enjoy. In Ginny's case, she cooks. She becomes the kitchen daughter. Yes, Ginny turns to cooking to cope. However, there's a unique twist to Ginny's cooking. She cooks up the recipes deceased owners! Where do ghosts fit into this seemingly moving and serious debut? In the hand written recipes that Ginny uses to cook her food....she brings their spirits back as she conjures up the food :-). I highly recommend this debut novel. Not having Asperger's myself, but seeing and knowing someone who does have it, I am pleased at how well McHenry portrayed the different aspects of Asperger's. She hit the nail dead on with this four star worthy debut. I would definitely read this novel again and again. A wonderful (and with recipes included might I add-delicious!) novel about finding your true self, no matter what, and embracing life full on.
  • (5/5)
    Reason for Reading: The main character has Asperger's, as do I, and I make it a habit of reading books that portray Aspies.First, I'd like to mention that this is as far from my regular type of reading as it gets. I don't *do* women's fiction; no matter what the topic I stay very, very far away from it. But when I was introduced to this book I saw the protagonist was Asperger's and I didn't really pay attention to anything else. I just wanted to read it.I loved this book with a passion. I read it in an evening, staying up to 3:30 am in the morning to finish it; I just couldn't put it down. Ginny Selvaggio was my kindred spirit. The first chapter really introduces her to the reader focusing a lot on her quirks, foibles and what goes on in her mind. I found a lot of myself there in that first chapter, that I knew I was going along for the ride with her. Ginny has Asperger's but has never been officially diagnosed, she doesn't even know herself, which I found odd throughout most of the story seeing as her father was a doctor, well a surgeon technically, but this works itself out by the end. She has unfortunately been overprotected by her parents, her mother virtually taking care of her, leaving the house with her but at the same that same mother does manage to have a wealth of coping strategies for Ginny, insisting she go to school and also insisting she learn the niceties of social discourse. Ginny is now in her early 30s and living at home with her parents, really incapable of dealing with the day-to-day of the outside world as she's never been given a chance.Then tragedy strikes (this is all in the first chapter, btw) and her parents are killed in a tragic accident leaving Ginny to her own defences. Except her younger sister Amanda completely takes over her mother's role and starts to arrange a new life for Ginny where she, Amanda, will now look after her. But Ginny eventually finds her voice and stands up for herself, she finds a friend, she starts venturing forth into the world. All this causes extreme stress upon her, but she has coping methods and one of them is food, not eating but cooking. Other reviewers will write about the food element of this book which has a major role, but I am not a cook nor do I like foreign, fancy foods, in fact the only recipe that interested my was the hard boiled egg (LOL). So I'll leave that to other reviewers. But thinking about food and cooking are calming forces on Ginny. This is when she realizes that she can bring back ghosts of people. If she follows a recipe of someone dead in their own handwriting they will appear in her kitchen for a short time and Ginny starts talking to these ghosts to unravel a deeply hidden family secret.I found the story utterly charming! The ghost part was fun, this magical realism added another layer to the story and as a fan of magical realism it probably added to my enjoyment of a "women's fiction" book. The story of how Ginny tentatively makes a friend was interesting to watch and the fact that it was a member of the opposite sex is telling as well. I, myself, do not relate to women very well and find it much easier to talk to men than women. The story of two sisters, is wonderful, and realistic. Both are trying to please, worried about each other, offended by the other's behaviour and have a major falling out in this time of stressful need when they should be supporting each other.But most importantly, to me, is the portrayal of Asperger's syndrome in a female. I think Ms. McHenry has done a fine job, especially considering she has no personal experience and received all her information through research from some renowned writers on the topic and through the Asperger's network online. I found Ginny entirely believable and a fine voice for the community of aspies in the real world. Personally I found many similarities between Ginny and myself: the use of the closet as a place to get away from it all, the many obsessions, not being able to look people in the eye, not liking to be touched (for me it's just my head/face) but I do need a personal space of an arm's width around me, not seeing the purpose of social chit-chat, performing social niceties because they are expected not because they have a logical reason.Ginny learns to accept who she is an aspie, as we all do at some point, and begins a process of asserting herself and living with herself, as she is. The book has a positive portrayal of Asperger's and one thing I really appreciated was when she went to see the psychiatrist this was her final discourse with Ginny:"Everybody struggles with this stuff, you know. With social discomfort and grief and fitting in. People with syndromes, people with disorders, people with diagnoses and without. People who would be classified as neurotypical. Idiots and geniuses, maids and doctors. Nobody's got it all figured out.""Not even you?""Not even me.""So ... it doesn't actually matter whether I have it at all?""I didn't say that," she says. "But you want my personal opinion? It matters a lot less than some people think it does."Well done, highly recommended read for an insight into Asperger's in an adult just learning she has a "syndrome".