The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
By Aimee Bender
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780385720960, April 2011, 304pp.)
The Short of It:
A mix of sad and sweet but overall a very compelling read.
The Rest of It:
One day, as Rose Edelstein takes a bite of her mother’s lemon cake, she is overcome with feelings so powerful, that at first, she’s not sure what to make of them. Somehow, that one bite conveys sadness and an emptiness that leaves her chilled and confused. Her mother is… sad? Unhappy? How can this be?
Rose’s family is your typical family. At least, they appear to be. They are supportive of one another, loving and although quirky, on the outside they appear to be happily living the California dream. But there are problems, as evidenced by Rose’s ability to taste emotions and the fact that her mother is having an affair that only Rose knows about (she sensed it from her mother’s cooking). Having this “talent” is not like having a superpower. It’s a burden for Rose to feel these things so she tries her best not to feel them, by carefully choosing the foods she eats. By avoiding reality, really.
The first half of this book was wonderful. It was surreal and sweet and I found myself lost in Rose’s story, but the second half took a turn that I didn’t expect it to take and then I was in this weird place where (without giving anything away) I was like, “What the hell just happened here?” I remember putting the book down and thinking that these folks have issues! Issues, I say! Bender manages to reel you in, and then push you away, only to reel you in again because by the end of the book, I was liking it but not quite sure how to interpret what took place within it. It’s a book that I had to think about for a really long time before I could write anything about it.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an incredibly sad book but one that was enjoyable to read. I think for the most part, me feeling that way is due to its quirky cast of supporting characters, who lighten things up and help put things in perspective. There is also a vulnerability to Rose that you can’t ignore. The message here is that everyone has their own gifts, what you choose to do with them, can often define who you are. Good or bad. I enjoy reading books like this because they are weighty, without being dense and give you plenty to think about.
Overall, a good read.
Note from Ti: Do people really put chocolate frosting on lemon cake? I think I must be missing out.
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