Monday, September 13, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender

CoverSometimes a book comes along that delights and captivates. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is such a book. It is a coming of age story about a girl, Rose Edelstein, with the uncanny ability to sense the emotions of others through the food that they make. We come to love this quirky narrator, seeing life through her eyes and her very gifted sense of taste. After savoring a piece of the lemon cake her mother bakes for her ninth birthday, Rose's talent becomes apparent:
"...what I'd tasted had nothing to do with each bite absence, hunger, spiraling, hollows." (p. 10)

Rose is an especially sensitive child, and her abilities makes her prescient. She is able to look into her parent's marriage in a way that neither partner can. She feels protective of her brother, whose own preternatural gifts come at a great price. As a daughter, she is both loving and protective, acknowledging her parents' shortcomings without judgment.

Aimee Bender depicts a young girl's growth into adolescence with such skill that readers accept the fantasy elements as natural. The novel tackles themes of alienation, love, and acceptance. It also explores friendship, and loss. It is about marriage, and love for a partner whose remoteness makes communication difficult. It is a book about being different in a world that seeks conformity. Ultimately, it is about making peace with one's life, and utilizing the talents one has.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a gem of a novel. It reinforced what I know as truth: that reading makes all things possible.

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