Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender~★★★

Author: Aimee Bender
Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Release Date: June 1st, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents' attention, bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice.
She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother-her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother-tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. Anything can be revealed at any meal. She can't eat her brother Joseph's toast; a cookie at the local bakery is laced with rage; grape jelly is packed with acidic resentment. 
Rose's gift forces her to confront the secret knowledge all families keep hidden-truths about her mother's life outside the home, her father's strange detachment, Joseph's clash with the world.
Yet as Rose grows up, she realizes there are some secrets that even her taste buds cannot discern." 

Taryn's Review: I was so excited when I began reading this book. The "gift" that Rose discovered was so fascinating and my imagination ran wild with the ways the author could spin a fantastic tale. Can you even imagine being able to taste people's feelings and emotions in the food they prepared? I was so impressed with this idea!

However, I never felt like Bender flourished with her thought. The book became stale and the focus shifted often to Joseph, Rose's brother. I could not get into Joseph's "gift" (not even sure to call it that) and was very bored with it. The building suspense of Rose and George, Joseph's best friend, was also a letdown to me. It felt like background noise that shouldn't have been there when it finally came to a conclusion.

I finished the book asking why Bender chose the route for the book that she did. I found Rose's father and mother to be so well-written. The entire story of how they met and how Rose's mother believed in signs and how Rose's father had manipulated the signs in attracting his future wife, while sad, caught me in its pull; you could feel the burden the revelation of Rose's mother's "signs" caused in her character's actions. Bender, unfortunately, seemed to abandon that aspect and focused on Joseph again. When Rose's father revealed a secret about his own father, I thought, "Brilliant twist!" and I anticipated Bender's inclusion of this into Rose's mindset, or perhaps even in Rose's plans for her future. It didn't do either and I felt deflated that such an amazing secret went nowhere.

I think Bender is a gifted writer (sans her lack of quotation marks - ugh! Quotation marks please!), but the novel didn't meld together the way a good recipe does. The ingredients were there, but a little too much of this and not enough of that made for a mediocre read. I'll definitely read another book by Bender, but I probably wouldn't recommend this book to many.

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