The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake; Aimee Bender
From the title alone, I was thinking, "what could be sad about lemon cake, it's a favorite here". What if when you ate lemon cake, or any food for that matter, you could "taste" the emotions of the person who made it? Such is the case for little Rose Edelstein on the evening of her ninth birthday.
When Rose takes a bite of her mother's lemon cake with fudge frosting, Rose tastes sadness and despair. For Rose, this is not an isolated incident. She struggles to find foods that do not make her feel "hollow" inside. Baked foods are the worst, based on the mood of the person that baked them. Packaged foods seem to have less of an effect on her.
There is one incident where after Rose takes a bite of something prepared by her mother, she becomes hysterical from the bad taste in her mouth. She is rushed to the emergency room by her mother, and the scene she causes was, for me, laugh out loud funny. Rose's mother is not the only family member who has emotional issues. In fact, the entire family is pretty dysfunctional, and each is dealing with their own emptiness and emotional pain. Rose loves her brother Joseph, and she longs to be close to him, but he is a loner who has problems of his own. The father is detached, and in his own little world, and the mother is unhappy and has secrets of her own. There is even mention of a grandmother who never visits, lives alone, is somewhat gruff, and a grandfather who could read people by their smell.
This novel is actually kind of hard to classify, but it is very very good. The story is both funny and tragic. Rose is an excellent narrator, who seems much wiser than her years. The magical realism used by the author was very clever and, the writing style kept me engaged and anxiously turning pages to see what would happen next. If you are a fan of Sarah Addison Allen's novels, I think you will love this book as well.
RECOMMENDED - 4/5 stars (Review Copy)