This week I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I have had a very busy week, and I was worried I might not be able to finish a single book. Well, no worries because I could not put this book down. I had a couple of late nights reading it because it is that good. Aimee Bender is a delightful writer. Her prose is smooth, lyrical, and lovely. The manner in which she writes about the love for family is sweet, poignant, and moving. This is the first of her books I have read, but it will not be the last.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake begins on the eve of Rose Edelstein's ninth birthday. Her mother has baked her a lemon cake with chocolate icing, and when Rose takes a bite, she can taste her mother's sadness. She can also taste every nuance of the source of that sadness: a feeling of smallness and hollowness. Rose's new skill soon develops to the point that she can not only detect the mood and thoughts of the person who made the food, but also locations from where ingredients derive. Naturally, Rose tries to protect herself by eating the most processed foods she can find, preferably manufactured by robotics. As a young adult, Rose eventually finds a French restaurant where she can tolerate the thoughts of the cook. Madame loves to cook, and her mood and thoughts are food-centric. Rose is in heaven eating at Madame's restaurant. She wants to learn more from Madame, so she takes a job there as a dishwasher.
Rose's "skill" pales in comparison to her big brother Joseph's. Interestingly enough, unusual skills seem to run rampant in the Edelstein gene pool. At first I thought Joseph had autism due to his interaction with people and other behaviors. His "skill" was completely unpredictable and shocking. I do not want to ruin this part of the storyline with spoilers, but I will tell you that the relationship between Rose and Joseph is so sweet. The parents' relationship is heartbreaking to me. It begins sweetly and very romantically, but evolves into secrecy, transgression, and loneliness. After all, Mom does not carry Edelstein genes, and Dad chooses to not share information that could have made all the difference.
I hope you will consider reading this book. Although it is not a happy read, it is an excellent one; you will not be disappointed. Please join Bonnie and me for our What We're Reading Linky Party today.
Until next time...