Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is a beautifully written, though dark, story about a not-so-normal family. Rose Edelstein is nine years old when she sits down for a piece of her mother's chocolate lemon cake. What she tastes is not what she expected.  Rose discovers that she has been cursed (gifted?) with the ability to "read" food, to know exactly where food came from and to taste the feelings of those who contributed to the making of that food. Her childhood is essentially over.

As Rose matures with, and because of, her ability she is faced with some sad and surprising truths about her family. With one taste of cake Rose discovers too young that her smiling, happy-go-lucky mother is in fact sad and unfulfilled, flitting desperately from activity to activity looking for fulfillment she can not find from her husband, until she settles on a long-term extramarital affair.  Her father is distant and focused on his work, likely due his own childhood dealing with the possibility of his own gift/curse. Her older brother seems to have a special kind of gift/curse all of his own.

Like its characters, this book left me unfulfilled and empty.
After the initial discovery of Rose's gift, and the slow realization of her brother's special ability, you just sort of wait...and wait...and wait....for something to happen. What happens is the book's end.

What happened to climax and denouement? Perhaps I am too traditional in my reading? Maybe the future of writing and the "story line" is changing?  But, I was just left wondering, "That's it?!"  From what I've seen from other readers, I was not the only one left out in the cold.

Despite that, it really was a well written book and quite beautiful. The extra-ordinariness of this family, juxtaposed with their actual normalness, was very well presented.

3/5- Good. Read it, have a good time and move on. Or not.

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