The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by A. Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeLately, I’ve been feeling fairly unhappy with the books I’ve chosen to read.  In fact I’m having a hard time writing a review for one of the books because I found it to be so disappointing.  Thankfully, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, was not one of those books.  I found this book to be so refreshing and different that I had a very hard time putting it down.

The book begins with the lead character, and narrator, Rose, who eats a piece of her mother’s lemon cake.  The cake is a trial run for the cake Rose requested for her 9th birthday.  However, this piece of cake is very different than anything else Rose has ever eaten as she suddenly finds herself able to taste what her mother was feeling when she made it.  This marks the beginning of a huge milestone in Rose’s life.  The book is all about her journey into adulthood and how she deals with her “gift”.  Not only that, but she starts to realize that she might not be only one in her family with a special ability…

It’s hard to explain Rose’s relationship with her parents without giving too much of the book away.  Let’s just say that she obviously loves her parents a lot.  Her mom loves her too, but it is very clear to the reader that Rose’s brother, Joseph, is her favorite.  In fact, her mom’s love for her brother borders on obsession.  Rose’s father, on the other hand, loves his children but has a hard time showing it.  He doesn’t quite know how to communicate with them.  So much so that Rose’s quality time with him normally consists of silently watching medical dramas on prime time TV.

Rose does not have much of a relationship with her brother Joseph.  Joseph is a genius, who spends most of his time working on projects in his room.  As far as he is concerned, any time not spent on his work is time wasted.  Talking with him or trying to spend time with him is like pulling teeth.  In fact, he becomes more and more remote and withdrawn as the book goes on – so much so that Rose becomes suspicious about what exactly he’s working on.  I’m going to stop there because Joseph’s story is extremely weird and very captivating, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Rose doesn’t have a lot of friends, but there is one person she can always count on – her brother Joseph’s only friend, George.  George is as smart, if not smarter than Joseph, but unlike him he is social and doesn’t mind having Rose around.  By far, Rose’s friendship with George is my favorite in the entire book.  From the start it’s pretty clear that Rose is head over heels in love with him and I can’t blame her.  George is always willing to take the time for her, instead of dismissing her as his friend’s younger sister.  I really loved watching their relationship as it changed throughout the book.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, on the surface, appears to be mainly about Rose and her special ability to taste people’s feelings through the food they prepare, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s a story about a family and its many secrets and a story of personal growth.  I can’t say enough good things about Bender’s book.  I thought the plot was extremely unique and fast paced.  There was never a moment I found myself bored.  Instead I spent entire time spellbound, wondering what was going to come next.  So if you’re looking for something different and extremely fun to read, you should definitely give this book a try.  This is the first time I’ve ever read Aimee Bender’s work, but The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake has without a doubt made me a fan for life.  I can’t wait to read more from this great author!

Also reviewed by: Book Nut, Rhapsody in Books, Strange Horizons and Fiction Writers Review

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  1. Funny, two of the people in my bookclub were talking about this book this weekend. I hadn’t heard of it prior to that. I wanted to look it up, but then I forgot the name of it so I’m really glad you reviewed it.

  2. Jenni: Now that you mention it I vaguely remember a movie like that with Sarah Michelle Gellar in it too! So I had to look it up and it’s called Simply Irresistable. It’s where she puts her feelings into the food. So it’s backwards from the book and the movie (which I saw) is a lot more lighthearted than the book too! LOL Regardless I hope you like the book! :)

    JenM: I’m glad I could be of help! I hope you enjoy the book! :)

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