Friday, May 28, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel
From Goodreads: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 cake. 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. 

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. 

The publisher in this ARC had written a small forward: "Dear Reader, Maybe you're having a bad day. Maybe you're having a bad year. If so, here is the antidote: Aimee Bender's new novel. Enjoy, William J. Thomas, Publisher and Editor in Chief". So, with that and the description, I was set for a light happy novel. Well, not quite. The novel wasn't sad, but more bitter-sweet. 

The day Rose discovers her gift she realizes that not only could she taste her mother's sadness and longing but she is empathic with food in general. She can even tell where the food was processed and the emotions of the farmer or workers who handled the food. She becomes obsessed with finding food she can live with because the emotions have a lasting effect on her while her body and mind process it. Some people who find out her gift shun her and a few accept her gift as wonderful. One helps her throughout her life by just being stable and there for her when she needs him. Another uses her gift to her own advantage. So, because of the shunning and the user, Rose withdraws into her own world. Her brother is no real help and seems to have secrets and problems of his own. 

In the end of this book, Rose discovers more about herself than she thought possible. She finds a small community of acceptance and is determined to find out who she is beyond the gift. She is also the only one who understands her brother more than anyone else. It isn't a happy ending, but at least it was somewhat a satisfying one. I give this book 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who wants a interesting, odd and different type of book.

I received this ARC from the publisher, Doubleday. No compensation was received for this review. This book is due for publication June, 1, 2010.


  1. I'd be one of those horrible people who would want Rose to eat my food just to see what she'd taste. Impatience? Pride? Anger? Hopefully happiness too because I'm happy when I cook most of the time.

    That cover rocks. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting..yummm. And I love the title too; it's stangely memorable because lemon cake seems like it should be happy.

  2. I think you'd enjoy this book. Especially with those comments. :) Also, you are spot on with the lemon cake. That is exactly why she was so shocked with the contrast!

  3. Sounds interesting. And to affiliate with food! Oh, I do love my food. :) Thanks for the great review.


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