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Ginny Selvaggio believes that "normal" means nothing, and everything. And she keeps a Normal Book to prove it.

Twenty-something Ginny has Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism sometimes presenting itself as a quirky, difficult personality. Ginny doesn't like crowds, doesn't like to be touched and rarely looks anyone in the eye. And she sometimes hides in a closet when stressed. Now Ginny's protective parents are dead, succumbing to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning while on vacation. Readers meet Ginny the day of the funeral and follow her as she retreats from the crowd to seek comfort in one activity that brings order into her life: cooking. She chooses her Nonna's recipe for bread soup, ribollita, and as the fragrance of soup begins to waft through the kitchen, Nonna's apparition appears, and the ghost tells Ginny "Do no let her." Ginny feels compelled to discover the meaning of her grandmother's admonition, and that quest soon finds Ginny eager to conjure up other ghosts to define and explain her life. To do so, she cooks every hand-written recipe she can find on her bookshelf. McHenry weaves in conflicts with Ginny's younger sister, Amanda, who feels obligated to take over her parents’ responsibilities. There's Gert, the Selvaggio's wise and loving housekeeper, with a rich history binding her to the family, and David, Gert's son, a young man in retreat from the world because he caused an auto accident that killed his wife. As the story continues, Ginny's cooking brings the spirit of her mother, her mother's friend from the time Ginny's parents married, a nurse who may or may not have been her father's lover and even Elena, David's wife. With what Ginny hears from the ghosts, and from those who love her, she learns to reach out and say, "I'm out here. I'm okay. I love you."

Skillfully rendered from Ginny's point of view, McHenry's debut novel is a touching tale about loss and grief, love and acceptance.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9169-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2011


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