Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Author: Aimee Bender
Publication: Doubleday; June 1, 2010
Rating: 2.5 Bookmarks
Nat’s 1-Sentence Synopsis: The day before her 9th birthday, Rose Edelstein realizes her unwanted gift of tasting the emotions of people who prepare the food she eats, and she spends the next decade eating her way through prepackaged food in an attempt to avoid emotional assault.
Set against the backdrop of Los Angeles, Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake tells the story of Rose Edelstein and her ability to taste not only the food that she eats but also the feelings of the person who prepared it. Rose is saddled with intimate knowledge of her mother’s deepest feelings via her cake and roast beef dinner–loneliness, guilt–and makes several fruitless attempts to get help for her problem.
Rounding out the Edelstein family is an emotionally detached father whose stabs at parenthood are almost mechanical, and Joseph, Rose’s older brother. Joseph, secretive, distant, and possibly autistic, is struggling with his own talents but holds a special place in their mother’s heart.
I was in love with the premise of this book from the minute I read the synopsis on another blog and was willing to get on board with the magical realism genre because the story seemed to hold such promise. Bender does write beautifully and can capture emotions and relationships in a way that many authors can’t. The father-daughter dynamic was especially realistic, and I wish she could have mined it further.
Unfortunately, this book just didn’t live up to my expectations on many levels. The middle of the novel seemed to drag and the storyline with Rose’s brother seemed too far-fetched, without clear resolution. Additionally, Bender forgoes the use of quotation marks in the dialog, making reading more labor-intensive. Personally, I found it a bit irksome.
Though flawed, this novel does offer a unique story with wonderful characterization and beautiful writing, and I’d be interested to hear your opinion if you’ve read this one.