Friday, June 25, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

When perusing the new book releases, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender caught my eye. I absolutely adore lemon cake above all other cakes, and it is unfathomable to me that this confection could ever induce sadness.

Rose, the protagonist, sneaks a bite of her lemon birthday cake and discovers that she can taste her mother's emotions. From this day forward, everything Rose eats tastes like the emotions of the preparer. Bender explores Rose and her family through the lens of this ability or curse - depending on your outlook. Rose tastes how her mother really feels about her life, and the realization that her mother is not completely happy is hard to accept at nine years old. Her relationship with her withdrawn brother and career driven father are also explored in this coming-of-age novel.

Rose's ability is weaved into the story such that the reader can simply take it at face value and be interested in Rose and her family rather than focusing on how and why she can taste people's emotions. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is magical realism at its best. I was particularly taken with Bender's sparse prose. She understands the virtue of brevity, and as a result, every sentence is a pleasure to read.

Search the VBPL catalog for all of Aimee Bender's novels and short stories. This title is also available as an Overdrive downloadable audiobook.
Another excellent novel of magical realism and family relationships is The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.

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