When Rose bit into her mother’s lemon-chocolate cake just before her ninth birthday, it tasted of despair, and Rose discovered her “gift” for tasting emotions. Unfortunately, many emotions taste bad and food becomes a threat to Rose’s emotional stability. She learns to distinguish the glorious subtleties of flavor, beautifully described in Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. But the dangers of unexpected truths lurk in every meal.
Told in first person, Aimee Bender’s novel combines the teen angst of modern French novels—such as Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog—with a nicely drawn American family and gently intriguing hints of the paranormal. How will Rose cope with this curious curse? Why is her mother sad? And why is her super-intelligent brother suddenly moody and dark?
To be honest, I found the brother annoying at the start, but perhaps that’s because I grew up with two of them. He’s certainly important to the tale, his own particular sadness adding a truly haunting depth as it comes to the fore. Rose loves, is loved, and tries not to know too much. With the wisdom and humor of innocence, she wends her way through a curious life and finally finds her place.
Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake combines humor, pathos and mystery into a curious family drama, leaving the taste-buds tingling with intrigue and satisfaction at the end.
Disclosure: My sister-in-law suggested I read this. Her book suggestions are always so well-chosen!