Skip to main content

Featured Post

A New Way of Living | Weekly Snapshot

I don't know about you guys but this has been one of the longest weeks ever. With schools closed and work moved to home, this has been a new way of living. When the changes and shutdowns came just before last weekend, there was no time to really process the information. Within days, life had changed. And then on Monday, I reported to work, from my home, with kids also at home. It was when Friday finally rolled along that I felt the gravity of the situation, how we'll be rarely getting out for weeks, if not for months. How schools were likely going to be closed for months. How work still had to be done remotely or worse, there was no work to do anymore due to layoffs or a shutdown. How there was not going to be any dining in restaurants for months.


That was a very sobering thought. I didn't sleep until 1.30am that night.

How are you all doing? What are some of your tips to keep your sanity on while we get through this very difficult time? Some of you are in places that are …

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry


The Kitchen Daughter
Knowing she's dead isn't what makes me miss her. It's the little things. They take me by surprise. Then I get stomachaches and I have to distract myself and disappear inside a dark small space or a process so deep it swallows me. I miss her because she's not here. If I invoke her ghost, she'll be here, and I won't have to miss her then.

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 awesome dish, her kitchen is visited by an unexpected visitor - the ghost of her grandmother herself, who warns her "Do no let her..." before disappearing.

The Kitchen Daughter is the story of autistic Ginny, who finds that thinking of food helps her cope with her sadness, anger and anxieties. She imagines the smell, feel and taste of food when she's feeling upset. She thinks of each person in terms of the food that comes to her mind when she hears their voice. For instance, her father has a tomato juice voice, her sister an orange juice voice, her friend David has a muddy/espresso voice.

I am usually skeptic of books featuring characters who have autism. Recently, there's been an explosion of literature in that category, and while some have been exceptional, quite a few have been just "following the trend". That said, I do like it when a book shows the disorder authentically. And in that respect, I thought The Kitchen Daughter did a great job in portraying Ginny's illness - her fears, her behavioral tics, her determination to do things her way. I was worried about the mystical element in the book - that of Ginny seeing ghosts when she cooks from their hand-written recipes. While I didn't exactly get comfortable with the ghosts, I thought it was a nice touch.

The Kitchen Daughter is the first foodie fiction that I've read. It was a change reading books with characters interacting first-hand with recipes (which have been shared) and even discussing methods of cooking them. I can see how this would appeal to someone who loves cooking. And since, I'm just beginning to get intimate with cooking (I've been lucky to have been with people who loved to cook for me), some of all that food references just went over my head. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book or get hungry, but it was not as much as I hoped to.

One thing that disappointed me about this book is that one mystery which was portrayed as very important early on in the book isn't solved by the end of the book. It didn't turn out to be too relevant later, because I understood Ginny to receive closure even without it being revealed, but there was still that little something nagging me at the back of my head. Barring that, I thought this was a different read of a usual storyline told in a refreshing novel way.

I received this book for free for review from Goldberg McDuffie CommunicationsThe Kitchen Daughter was released on April 12th. Check it out on the publisher's pageGoodreadsAmazon and Barnes and Noble. To visit the author's website, click here.


Comments

Misha said…
I agree that all of a sudden there have been too many books with characters suffering from some illness or the other. I am glad to hear that the author does a great job in depicting autism, especially since I've interest in such issues. I have not read foodie fiction yet, but I really want to (even though I am completely useless when it comes to cooking).
Athira / Aths said…
Haha.. You sound just like me on the cooking aspect! I don't think foodie fiction is exactly for me but I do want to read more such books. I know I enjoy foodie movies!
I adored this book and would love it if the author would write a follow up and let us know how Ginny's doing.
I absolutely loved this story. I cannot, cannot wait to read whatever Jael McHenry writes next!
hcmurdoch said…
Glad you liked this one. Having recipes and food in it makes me think of Like Water for Chocolate. I am so not a foodie, but this one might be good; I'll put it on my maybe list
Nadia said…
Aths, this book sounds so interesting. Recipes in the book reminds me of Esquivel's book Like Water for Chocolate - which I loved! I'll definitely be adding this one to my TBR list. Thanks!
Vasilly said…
I love foodie fiction though I don't read enough of it. Even with the one setback you talked about, I think this might be a book for me. Great review.
Athira / Aths said…
I agree. That would be a great follow-up. I was so glad to see how things worked out for Ginny eventually.
Athira / Aths said…
I'm excited to see what she has up her sleeves!
Athira / Aths said…
I guess this is like that book. I've seen many other foodie books around lately, but it's just me not being too foodie that's keeping me from checking them out.
Athira / Aths said…
I have Like Water for Chocolate on my TBR, which I need to check out, but I think it's the same idea - recipes hidden within stories.
Athira / Aths said…
Thanks! The setback I mentioned is minor actually. Soon after I finished this book, I discussed that mystery with a couple of bloggers and we all agreed that Ginny's assumptions were enough.
This one really intrigues me with both the foodie element and the autistic element.
Darlene said…
Great reviewAths! I have this book on my shelf and I'm anxious to read it. I love foodie books so I think this may be a good read for me.
Athira / Aths said…
Both elements really delivered well, so you should check this out. It was an entertaining read.
Athira / Aths said…
Yay! Then I think you will enjoy it! I can't wait to hear what you think.
Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said…
This was recommended quite a bit when I asked for foodie fiction recommendations last week -- I'm glad you liked it. That makes me more excited to give it a try.
Athira / Aths said…
Can't wait to hear what you think! It's an entertaining foodie fiction.
Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said…
Sounds like something I might dig. Great honest review.
BibliophilebytheSea said…
I had this on my wish list (which I have no business adding to), but I may pass on this one, at least for now. I did enjoy your well-done review.
Athira / Aths said…
Thanks, Diane! I do understand removing this from your wishlist. I don't think I would have read this one after reading a review, it was mostly an out-of-comfort-zone read for me.
c b said…
I just finished this a couple of hours ago :) I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. I love food, though I am terrible cook and wanting to learn, so I do like that aspect of it. I also thought the mystery wasn't solved - I wonder if we're thinking of the same mystery? I wish it would have been clearer.
Roberta said…
Is this a first book? What an interesting juxtaposition: food and autism, I'm intrigued by your review.

(BTW, I was your BBAW interview partner. How are things going?)
Athira / Aths said…
The mystery - is it about the message itself? Do no let her...? I felt it was very crucial to the story line and I really wanted to know what it was about.
Athira / Aths said…
Hey Roberta!! It's been so long since we "talked"! Things are going good, a bit hectic but nice otherwise. How are you doing?

This is a first book, I believe, although the author does blog about food on her website. I did think that cooking and autism together in a book was kind of interesting.
christa @ mental foodie said…
yep it's the 'do not let her' bit... i think i have an idea what it is about but wish it was clearer. it was almost as tho the author forgot all about it.
Athira / Aths said…
Exactly! That's what I felt. I began to panic that it may not be answered, then I assumed that the author must have forgotten it or let it be figured by the reader. So I just thought that maybe Ginny was meant to guess and leave at it.

Popular posts from this blog

Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri (Short Fiction Review)

I first read Jhumpa Lahiri years ago, when her Interpreter of Maladies was making a huge buzz. At the time, I didn't catch any of the buzz, but for some reason, when I saw the book on the shelf at the store I was browsing in, I felt it just might be a decent read. Funnily, I read the entire short story collection without complaining about it, but for some reason, I cannot read any collection anymore without agonizing over its disjoint nature.

I did enjoy Interpreter of Maladies, but I did get bothered by the thread of loneliness and infidelity and distrust that laced through the stories. For that reason, I have been reluctant to read Unaccustomed Earth. However, when I came across Hell-Heaven at the NewYorker - a free short story from her book, I decided to go ahead and read it. I can't resist the pull of stories set in India or featuring Indian characters, and it is that same aspect that hooked me throughout this story.


In Hell-Heaven, the narrator contemplates the relations…

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.
Bernadette Fox has a reputation. While her husband and her daughter Bee love her, there's barely anyone else who share the sentiment. Her neighbor Audrey loves to gossip mean things about her with her close friend, Soo-Lin. The other parents of kids at Bee's school look down on Bernadette because she doesn't involve herself in school affairs. Bernadette herself goes out of her way to avoid company.

And then one day, Bee comes home with an excellent report card and asks for her reward - a family trip to Antarctica. The very plan throws Bernadette into a panic but she has no other option. She hires a virtual assistant, based out of India to take care of all her demands, including getting prescriptions at her local pharmacy, doing her online shopping and taking care of some of the logistics of her trip. (It is ridiculous! Bern…

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (Short Fiction review)

With the Hunger Games hype that engulfed us last week, it was hard to avoid all the discussion of similar works that existed. Of the many titles that I came across, two stood out particularly - a short story called The Lottery and a Japanese novel (and movie) called Battle Royale (which I'm reading right now and just cannot put down). The novel will be fodder for another post, so for now, I just want to rave about the awesomeness that was The Lottery.

In contemporary America, villagers across the country are gathering on the 27th of June (and some a day earlier) for an annual event called the Lottery. Children, women, men, all come to the main square of their village or town, where the lottery master keeps a black box full of paper chips. One of these chips is marked has a special mark on it to identify the winner (the person who draws that chip). Not everyone draws however, but only the head of the family. Husbands are viewed as the head of their families/households, and if the …