I’ve just spent the better part of the last two days reading Aimee Bender’s 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake'. The quirky title is what lured me in, and I can honestly say that it’s been a while since I’ve been so wrapped up in a story that a book becomes unputdownable (hence why I haven’t posted here in some time). This book has left me intrigued, confused and undeniably sad.
At the age of 9, Rose Edelstein discovers that she can taste her mother’s emotions in a slice of home-made lemon-chocolate cake. Where before she was cheerful and capable, Rose learns that her mother tastes of sadness, despair and desperation. So begins a life where for Rose, an average meal can become an intimate moment of revelation.
This gift of being able to read the feelings of the people who prepared the food she consumes is quite unsettling and results in Rose growing up very quickly, becoming an almost adult-child. The book follows her journey as she struggles with this gift, exploring the dynamics of her family: the father who is always there but never present, the sad mother who is always smiling, and the older brother who does not like to be touched.
I admit that I have a predilection for tales of dysfunctional families, but the Edelsteins are quietly dysfunctional: soundlessly desperate and unhappy yet not prepared for anything to change. Rose, wise beyond her years, is an excellent narrator who builds a stagnant world of surface where sadness and loss continue to permeate the air long after the last page has been read.
I recommend this book because I didn’t fully understand it, and for me, those are the kinds of books that stay with you. Let me know what you think!