After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.
A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.
As a young woman with Asperger's, Ginny has always been protected and sheltered by her parents. After their sudden death, Ginny is suddenly on her own. Her dominating sister insists on selling their parents house and having Ginny live with her, even though Ginny prefers staying in the home she's always known. Frustrated with the fact that Amanda won't listen to her, Ginny cooks, finding comfort in the order and ritual of recipes and preparation. When she prepares her grandmother's soup, her Nonna appears to her and they are able to speak, but her Nonna disappears after giving her a cryptic message.
As Ginny struggles with expressing her feelings to her sister, she discovers family secrets hidden in her home. Wishing to find answers to her questions, she continues cooking, finding recipes from her mother and father which enable her to speak with them. What their answers reveal teach Ginny more about herself than anything else and she learns that "normal" is different for everyone.
Ginny is a fantastic character. Jael McHenry has completely captured the essence of Asperger's syndrome and the reality that it's a spectrum and it manifests differently in people. I loved her notion that there is no "normal". I have a son with Asperger's. I could see much of him in Ginny. He has coping mechanisms just like Ginny does. He has some of the same tendencies as Ginny and many of her thought processes and reactions are what I see in him.
The narrative is lyrical and well written with mouthwatering descriptions of food and cooking. There is mild, non-gratuitous use of the F word. There are also some great sounding recipes that I can't wait to try. With magical realism elements that evoke Sarah Addison Allen, this is a terrific, engaging story. It's not a ghost story, but a story about determination, acceptance and family.
Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Jael McHenry here and here. You can purchase your own copy here.
You can see other tour stops and reviews here:
Monday, April 11th: girlichef
Wednesday, April 13th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, April 14th: She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, April 15th: Book Club Classics!
Monday, April 18th: The Singleton in the Kitchen
Tuesday, April 19th: Back to Books
Wednesday, April 20th: Coffee and a Book Chick
Thursday, April 21st: Books Like Breathing
Monday, April 25th: Simply Stacie
Tuesday, April 26th: Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, April 27th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, April 28th: 2 Kids and Tired
Monday, May 2nd: The Brain Lair
Tuesday, May 3rd: Stephanie’s Written Word
Friday, May 6th: Book Addiction
Monday, May 9th: Farmgirl Fare
Tuesday, May 10th: Overstuffed
Wednesday, May 11th: Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Friday, May 13th: The Literate Housewife Review
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