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The Kitchen Daughter

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  5,695 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews
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 fro ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Gallery Books (first published 2011)
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Tonya I just finished the book and I think it may have meant not to let Amanda stay mad at Ginny and shut her out because they are sisters and the only…moreI just finished the book and I think it may have meant not to let Amanda stay mad at Ginny and shut her out because they are sisters and the only close family Ginny had left which in turn allowed Ginny to get to keep the house, and open Amanda's eyes for Shannon's sake in case she ended up having the same diagnosis so she would be understanding about how to help her daughter if that was the case and it also pushed Ginny to help herself with her condition during the time she was trying to figure out what to "not" let Amanda do so in the process it helped heal them in their need to be a family. That's just my take on it. (less)
Snogged Check out "The Magician's Lie" by Greer McAllister.
Also, there's a short story called "Croquembouche" which is another foodie fiction piece by this…more
Check out "The Magician's Lie" by Greer McAllister.
Also, there's a short story called "Croquembouche" which is another foodie fiction piece by this author.(less)
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Community Reviews

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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,695 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews

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Nicola Mansfield
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 i
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This is actually my favorite kind of book. It's about something relevant but also about something else much more relevant. It reminds me of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which is about a girl who feels what people feel when they cook the food. But it's really not. It's about coping skills or it's a little story about growing up...

This book is about Ginny who is 26 years old and has a personality. At least that's what she's always been told. Secretly, Ginny has never been officially diagno
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A young woman with Aspberger's coming to terms with herself while grieving the death of her parents. Ginny has always been "different". What has been apparent to her parents, has been kept from Ginny. Ginny has coping skills which include food, it's tastes,textures and smells. So when situations threaten Ginny she conjures food or she cooks.
Reluctantly brought out of herself by circumstances and those around her, Ginny slowly starts to see life beyond the walls of her family home. A healthy do
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
I would probably rather give this book 3 stars for effort, and only 2 stars for result. I get the sense that Ms. McHenry isn't quite sure what she herself wants this book to be: A "cause" book (informing the public about aspbergers), a book about cooking, a book about relationships, a book about grieving or simply a narrative about life. In any event, I don't think she accomplishes any of these particularly well.

I expected to like this a lot better than I did. And I admit that I stuck with it,
Pradyuman Mittal
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Forgot I read this once upon a time but I remember the story. A Jewish girl with Asperger's syndrome finds a way to heal through cooking after a death in the family. The storyline is okay but kind of slow. I wouldn't voluntarily read for a second time.
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Won a copy of this from MangoJuiced. My review is originally posted here.

Ginny has never been good with people – she doesn’t like strangers and she doesn’t like talking to people. She’s not comfortable with physical contact and only allows a handful of people to touch her. She lives with her parents, in the house where she grew up and fills her days with cooking. Food comforts her and that’s what she uses as a coping mechanism. Here’s a sample of the writing and how Ginny uses food to calm herse
Paula Vince
Ginny Selvaggio is a 26-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome whose parents have died suddenly in an accident. Cooking is her stress outlet, and quite by chance, she realises she can summon ghosts when she cooks from recipes written in the person's own handwriting. But she only has a short time with each of them before the fragrances of their dishes waft away, and visits are limited to once only.

My heart warmed to Ginny straight away. She couldn't avoid a complex that she lacks something essential,
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love, love, loved THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER, it was one of those books that you pick up and are unable to put it down willingly for even one minute. Ginny is 26 and still lives at home with her parents, she doesn’t work and never finished university, her parents provide for her. Ginny has all the earmarks of having Asperger’s but has never been diagnosed. Instead her parents encouraged her to depend on them no doubt thinking they were doing the right thing protecting Ginny from distress of knowing ...more
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
Ginny Selvaggio has just lost both of her parents and from the beginning of the novel, we readers understand that Ginny is different. She probably has Asperger Syndrome. But what keeps her grounded is her cooking, and she cooks from her recipe box - recipes of dead people .

Each time she finishes the recipe, a ghost is sitting in her kitchen. Her Nonna tells her, "Don't let her."

Who? and what? Her domineering and protective sister wants to sell the house. But that would disrupt Ginny's routine an
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Kitchen Daughter follows the life of 26 year old Ginny, a young woman with quite the “personality”, as she likes to call it. Ginny is suffering from Asperger’s syndrome and food seems to be her only escape from the social awkwardness of the real world. This book helped me to appreciate what goes on in the head of one with such a syndrome and how everyday social interactions we take for granted are nightmares for those with Asperger’s and autism. Ginny is lost after her parents death, in the ...more
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up because it looked so interesting and off-beat. The main character and narrator of the book has Asperger's syndrome, is in her "happy place" whenever she is in the kitchen cooking, and discovers she can summon the ghosts of people by cooking the old, hand-written recipes they left behind. Honestly, how quirky is all of that?

It turned out to be more than I expected. The book is a view into the mind of someone with Asperger's (or high-functioning autism) without pigeon-holing
Dale Harcombe
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ginny has been sheltered for most of her life by her parents because she has Asperger’s. Then her parents die in an accident and Amanda, Ginny’s sister, wants to sell the family home and have Ginny live with her and her young family. Ginny is resistant to the idea. In her grief she takes comfort in food and makes her Nonna’s recipe. As she cooks it the ghost of Nonna enters the room with a warning for Ginny. Only she doesn’t understand what she it is she is not to ...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
After the sudden death of her parents, Ginny is left feeling isolated and unsure of what to do. Her sister, Amanda, is trying to cope with the tragedy in her own way, but she doesn't really know how to look after Ginny, who has Asperger's syndrome. Ginny throws herself into cooking, because nothing else seems to be able to address her intense sadness the way cooking and food does. The first time, she makes a bread soup from a recipe written by her grandmother. Even before she could relish the aw ...more
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it

Ginny, a 26 yr old with Asperger’s, must deal with the sudden loss of her overprotective parents. She struggles in a world that doesn’t consider her normal, including her sister, Amanda, who is dealing with the loss of their parents in her own way. She comes in to save the day. Conflict and misunderstanding arises when Ginny doesn’t want to be saved.

The different faces of grief are explored as well as the definition of "normal" You’ll find yourself rooting for Ginny, one of fiction’s most inter
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ginny Selvaggio is twenty-six-years-old and attending the funeral of both her parents on a cold December day in Philadelphia. She lives in the family home alone, now that her parents are gone. Her older, domineering sister, Amanda and her husband, Brennan, and their two girls, Shannon, and Parker live in Jersey. Ginny has Asperger’s Syndrome which is a rare and relatively mild autistic disorder characterized by an awkwardness in social interaction and by the development of restricted interests a ...more
Arielle Walker
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This whole attempt to read nice, fluffy, happy books for a while is... not working.

Full review may come eventually.

(NOTE: that cover blurb needs to be re-thought. Nice one, labelling the main character when: she herself refuses that very label/it isn't even brought up til halfway through the book/you pretty much gave away all the plot right there)
Andrew Leong
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A favorite book for me! I loved the characterization; each person seemed so real! And I believe the lack of communicative ability was accurately depicted. Or perhaps more accurately, the discomfort with typical interactions would be a more accurate statement/description. Ah, and those family dynamics! How they can change when elder family members are no longer around in everyday life. Ginny can seem much like a defiant teenager, though she really is not, in my opinion. Thanks to her mother she h ...more
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book came up in a book group, and I assumed it was "just chick lit" which usually seems to me superficial and silly and which I don't normally read. But since it was a book group selection, I ordered a used copy. Took a lo g time to arrive and was a pretty fast read when it did. And surprisingly insightful.

Ginny and Amanda have recently lost their parents to a freak accident where they were staying on an extended vacation. The story opens at the funeral where Ginny is trying very hard to ho
Terri Suda
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved it. One more good book down! Read this for my Tuesday Night Girl's Club discussion which is tonight. Looking forward to talking about it with the gals. I made the shortbread recipe in the book for the discussion - one batch with real butter, the other dairy free - yummo! Recipe worked perfectly.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it liked it
A quick and easy read. Interesting story which lends itself well to gaining a better understanding of what a person with Asperger's may experience. I really enjoyed the author's culinary descriptions but otherwise, the characters and plot really aren't that memorable.
Pranav Krishnan
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't a long book but it had quite an emotional punch. I think the author did an amazing job portraying grief and self doubt and differences in how people see themselves. However, the tone of the story also was a little too much on the depressive side and it also felt like some situations could have had more closure.
Still, a surprisingly good read for me.
Asami Takagi
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Overall, I enjoyed Jael McHenry’s novel. McHenry adds a dash of the supernatural, a pinch of love, and creates a delicious and enticing novel. This is my favorite kind of novel because the author takes a relatable event, like one’s parents passing, and makes it unique. Most of all, I appreciate her response to a modern issue -- finding the definition of normal. The main character struggles to define the true meaning of normal and, in turn, defines herself as normal. However, McHenry fails to exp ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that you start reading without really knowing what to expect. The publisher's blurb promised ghostly magic, cooking, an unconventional heroine with Asperger's Syndrome, and a lot of family drama. I wasn't really anticipating learning everything that I did and enjoying the story quite so much. It was a real treat to lose myself in this sweet and uplifting debut novel.

The author has done an amazing job of creating memorable and endearing characters. She has the reader
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ginny Selvaggio has Asperger’s syndrome. It is a disorder that causes people to not be able to communicate sociably and effectively with other people. Unfortunately, there is no cure currently. For this reason, Ginny is very protected by her older sister, Amanda. When Ginny and Amanda’s parents die, Ginny seeks solace within the confines of the kitchen. There Ginny finds old recipes. She takes to trying them out. The first one is a recipe for the “Best Ribollita”. The recipe was Ginny’s Italian ...more
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bees, 2011
Ginny, a twenty-something chef-extraordinaire finds solace in her family kitchen as a means of avoiding people (she doesn't like them) and the world around her (she doesn't understand it). 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 famil ...more
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved this book and couldn't put it down until I finished it. Ginny's voice is so fresh and different from the average female protagonist. I have read several nonfiction books about Asperger's and felt McHenry did an excellent job portraying a young woman with that syndrome. Ginny had Asperger's but the book became more about her acceptance of herself and reaching out to others in her life so that they would accept her as well.

I am not a particularly good chef, I'm more of a baker, but I love
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Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who grew up in Michigan and Iowa before moving from city to city along the East Coast: Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and now New York, where she blogs about food and cooking at the Simmer blog, She is a monthly pop culture columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Intrepid Media, online at H ...more
“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.” 29 likes
“There is no normal. There's only what's right for you and being honest.” 11 likes
More quotes…