Saturday, July 30, 2011
I've just finished Jael McHenry's The Kitchen Daughter. It was a good read; parts of it were a great read. What stops me from declaring it a "great" read overall, though, is that I almost didn't finish it. At the 37-page point, I was ready to close the book permanently, park it on a shelf, and say not every one is a winner. But I invoked my daughter's rule that you have to give a book 50 pages and kept going. I'm glad I did. It was worth the read.
The opening was slow for me, a little disjointed, a little too much repetition from the protagonist, Ginny. I understand, now, afterward, the need for the repetition. I recognized then, too, though to a lesser degree, that it served a purpose of laying foundation, of informing the character. It was enough of an irritation, though, a distraction, that it stops me from proclaiming it GREAT.
That said, there's something really remarkable about the book. I'm a believer in the idea that we react to any given book based on a lot of things, most notably, what's going on in our lives at that moment, our emotional state. These things, along with our own experiences and baggage, make us more or less receptive to a story, a style of writing, a subject matter. I was moved by this story; somewhere along the way I bought in and found myself inside Ginny's world, invested. She has Asperger's, though she's never been officially labeled as such. I felt Ginny's frustration, her confusion, her desire to fight through all of it; I cheered alongside her with each victory, with each new learning and understanding. What holds it all together for me is the touch of magic, the idea, the possibility... she's able to summon up the ghosts of her relatives by working from their handwritten recipes. There are also a couple of twists weaved in that take the story deeper and kept me reading.
Put this on your summer to-read list.