February 05, 2013

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

This was an odd book.  Not bad really, but definitely strange.  It used magical realism, kind of in the same tone as Sarah Addison Allen's books, but with more of a sad underbelly.

Rose is a normal girl, that is until her ninth birthday, where upon taking a bite of the chocolate lemon cake her mom has baked for her, she can feel all of her mom's emotions.  As she struggles through eating anything her mom makes, she discovers that this power is not only limited to her mom's cooking, but every food she eats.  Over the years she becomes precise enough to know where the ingredients came from and even how the person picking the vegetables or fruit was feeling.  And her brother, well he has a secret all his own that Rose has to cope with.

Poor Rose was the only normal one in the family, if you can call her "normal" with her abilities.  I certainly wouldn't want to be stuck with such a dreadful curse as she had, nothing was a secret and some of it was very tough for her to cope with.  Her mother was loving but selfish and seemed to be very flighty.  Her brother was distant and strange, and her father just seemed to tune out of everything.  Rose didn't really have anyone she could turn to except her brother's friend George, who was much older and not around much.  It just seemed like a very lonely life for her, even further compounded by having to taste emotions every time she ate.  But even despite that I just didn't feel that connected to her as a character, or any of the characters for that matter.

The plot was strange.  I enjoyed the concept of Rose's ability and her brother's secret even though I didn't understand the point of it like I did Rose's.  The book read at a good pace and although several years passed in it, I didn't feel rushed.  What I didn't enjoy so much was the lack of punctuation when it came to the characters speaking.  There are no quotation marks anywhere and it makes it difficult to determine when someone is speaking versus when they are just thinking.  I know it's probably supposed to be edgy or something, but I just found it annoying.  Otherwise the writing was descriptive and it did evoke emotion, but it was a chore to actually sift through to get that.

I can't say that Bender is as good as Allen when it comes to magical realism, but she does have some unique ideas.  And if you like funky, this book definitely fits under that category.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Copyright 2010
292 pages

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