Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel Author: Aimee Bender
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
When Rose Edelstein’s mother makes her a lemon chocolate cake for her ninth birthday, she is excited to try it; after all, it’s one of her favorite desserts. But when she bites into it, she is filled with sensations she never expected – sadness, despair, depression. She quickly realizes that, somehow, she is experiencing her mother’s emotions through her baking.
To her horror, Rose finds out that this particular talent isn’t limited to her mother’s cooking – anything she eats, she can taste the feelings of the people who made it. Through this unasked-for curse – or is it a gift? – Rose begins to understand more about the secrets each member of her family holds.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is one of those titles that received a lot of hype and positive press prior to its release. As a result, I had very high expectations when I settled down to read it. While I’m not sure it lived up to the hype, I’m still glad I read it.
Rose is certainly an endearing character, and since we’re with her over a course of ten years or so, the reader really gets to know her. Her talent certainly is a unique one, and it’s interesting to see how she handles it. At first she hates it, barely eating food because she fears the emotions she might experience. But slowly she learns to utilize it to her advantage, realizing that it doesn’t have to be a curse. I wish that this character growth had been more fully developed in the novel, as it was the most fascinating part of the book to me.
The overall feeling of the book is very passive; Rose tends to let things happen to her, rather than trying to take control of her circumstances. She is a watcher, observing those around her and understanding them through their food. It’s Bender’s beautiful writing that really ties the book together. Without her exceptional prose, the story would not flow nearly as easily.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was certainly an interesting book. I liked that it was unique, and Bender does a great job incorporating magical realism in the novel. At the same time, I don’t feel like it really captured me, though I am glad I read it. I’ll definitely be going back and reading some of Bender’s earlier works.