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The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter

  • reading group guide
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.
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  • Gallery Books | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451648508 | 
  • December 2011
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Jael McHenry Turns Up the Heat with Hot Hot Chocolate

Jael McHenry shares the recipe for Hot Hot Chocolate from her new novel The Kitchen Daughter.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Kitchen Daughter includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jael McHenry.The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


With the unexpected death of her parents, twenty-six-year-old Ginny Selvaggio finds that her safe, sheltered existence has completely shattered. Painfully shy and unsure of adulthood, Ginny seeks comfort in the only place that has ever brought her peace: the kitchen.

But the kitchen has its own surprises in store for Ginny. The scent of her Nonna’s rich, peppery soup summons the spirit of Nonna, and she leaves Ginny with a cryptic warning. Suddenly, Ginny is forced to untangle hidden family secrets, all while dealing with her domineering sister Amanda. Ginny comes to realizes that the ghosts of her loved ones can be beckoned back to her kitchen by cooking from their recipes. But she must decide if she has the courage to face the truths they will reveal about her family—and about herself.


1. Ginny undergoes a great transformation through the course of the novel. Compare the early version of Ginny with the woman she is by the end. Do you feel sh see more

About the Author

Jael McHenry
Jessica Leigh Photos LLC

Jael McHenry

Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who 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 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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