Books About Dysfunctional Families: The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake
Aimee Benders The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is the story of nine-year old Rose Edelstein who, for strange reasons, becomes aware of peoples emotions through their cooking.
It starts with her mothers homemade lemon cake and then appears in everything she eats. Whether its her brothers sandwich or the ice cream batter made by the apathetic teenager at the local ice cream shop, she is privy to everyones emotions at the time of the creation of the meal. For the wise little soul that is Rose, it means witnessing but never trying to meddle or change the course of a persons actions.
You know how, as a kid, you noticed certain things and felt them at your core but still had trouble fully comprehending them? Thats how Rose feels a lot of the time in this novel. She witnesses her brothers aggressive withdrawal, her fathers aloofness, and her mothers detachment with the complacency of a bystander. An afterthought her self. The story is essentially Roses coming-of-age with the gift/curse of a heightened sense of intuition. She sees, she notices, but somehow, she refrains from judgement.
So verdict overall: beautiful concept and it really shines when it comes to interpersonal relationships but the writing could definitely have been a little moreengaging. Three stars out of five.
The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake
I wondered what he knew about the family what he didnt know. What family he lived in. My mind wandered around.
This novel begins with a charming and unique premise. A young girl, Rose, finds that by eating food prepared by others she can taste the moods and feelings of the food preparers. This has particular relevance when it comes to her mother. As Rose eats the foods her mother has prepared, she at first experiences her mothers sadness, but later her guilt. Her mother is having an affair, the knowledge of which Rose wishes she did not possess:
The guilt in the roast beef had been like a vector pointing in one direction. . . . I hated it the whole thing was like reading her dairy against my will. Many kids, it seemed, would find out that their parents were flawed, messed-up people later in life. . . . I didnt appreciate getting to know it all so strong and early.
This discomfort on the part of our protagonist also affects the reader at least, it affected this reader. Rose has been given a power she does not want to have, and it makes her life messy and unpleasant. At one point, early in this story, she is hospitalized after raving about wanting to get rid of her mouth. If she didnt have her mouth in her face, she wouldnt have to eat and wouldnt have to feel what others are feeling.
Over the course of several packed days, Id tasted my mothers affairs and had conversation with my father. . . . I was not feeling good about any of it. . . .
The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake By Aimee Bender Review
As Rose Edelstein turns nine, the simple task of eating becomes fraught with dread. Biting into her mother’s lemon cake, she tastes “absence, hunger, spiralling, hollows”, and is shocked to realise that these disturbing emotions emanate from “Mom”, belying her happy, fulfilled exterior. Negotiating around sandwiches that yell “love me”, and cookies tasting of “tight anger” is bad enough, but Rose’s new-found ability as “food psychic” also gives her an unwelcome insight into the lives of those to whom she is ostensibly closest. While her brother Joseph withdraws to the extent that he becomes part of the furniture, Mom starts an affair, advertised by adultery-flavoured roast beef, and Dad, a lawyer, remains disengaged. Rose’s complex relationship with food is developed by Bender as a slightly laboured metaphor for loss of innocence, as the betrayals and uncertainties of an adult world take over. In this quirky, engaging tale of a family endowed with unlikely gifts, the ties that bind people barely conceal the chasms that divide them.
Read Also: Sam’s Club Bakery Wedding Cakes
A Particularly Delicious Lemon Cake
Because the goodness of the ingredientsthe fine chocolate, the freshest lemonsseemed like a cover over something larger and darker
Let me start by saying that Ive never really liked cake. While other girls dream of three-tiered wedding cakes with fondant flowers, I imagine sitting by a campfire, roasting smores and trying not to drip chocolate on my white dress. Im not sure what it is about cake that I have a hard time getting into. I love muffins and theyre basically just cupcakes for people like me whose skills with a pastry bag are rudimentary at best. Come to think of it, Ive never been a huge fan of frosting either. I find that frosting, like make-up, can be easily over-done and more often than not, you end up with a big sticky mess.
Then I read Aimee Benders The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake a story about a girl named Rose who can taste emotions in foodand the secret cake-enthusiast inside me stirred. Maybe, my change of heart had something to do with lines like warm citrus baked batter lightness enfolded by cool deep dark swirled sugar. If Bender had described a bowl of congealed potato salad this beautifully, I probably would have eaten it. Shes THAT good.
Finally, shed feel satisfaction, because the end result was DELICIOUS.
Despite the success of this recipe, I still wouldnt consider myself a cake person. Maybe just a lemon cake person.
Review: The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake By Aimee Bender
This article was published more than 11 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.
Aimee Bender’s writing awakens in me a longing for cartoon families and longer eyelashes, for two dimensions instead of three. She conjures a landscape from my childhood. It is part Hollywood, part fairy tale. I am enchanted. I love my long eyelashes. Then she pulls aside the curtain. Look, she says. It’s a set. And the people in this 2-D landscape are not 2-D, though they are pretending very hard. It is sad, how hard they are pretending. But look, they are fathomless, shadowy creatures. The world snaps into 3-D. And while you are sad to see the cartoon family go, you are under a new spell, the spell of seeing a spell dispelled. Only Aimee Bender can do this. Her new novel is profound and eye-opening and, yes, sad. Also funny.
It begins with a lemon cake. A few days before her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein comes home from school and is greeted at the door by her mother. Rose’s mother has a blond ponytail and wears an apron. She is warm and lemony. “How about a practice round?” she asks, drawing her daughter across the threshold with a hug.
Enter the cake. A pre-birthday cake.
Rose eats the cake and falls asleep and when she wakes, her eyelids are so heavy it’s as if “tiny lead weights had been strung, fishing-line style, onto each lash.” An eye-opening moment.
Jessica Grant is the author of Come, Thou Tortoise, which won the 2009 Amazon.ca First Novel Award.
Recommended Reading: Sam’s Club Bakery Wedding Cakes
Penguin Random House Audio
The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“Odd and oddly beautiful….moving”–The Washington Post“Haunting….Bender’s prose delivers electric shocks….rendering the world in fresh, unexpected jolts. Moving, fanciful and gorgeously strange”–People Magazine“Charming and wistful…. harness her exquisite, bizarre sensitivity, in this haunting examination”– The AtlanticBender is the master of quiet hysteria….She builds pressure sentence by sentence…..the crippling power of empathy”–Los Angeles Times” transformative narrative….powerful”–San Francisco Chronicle”Extraordinary…. a complicated novel with significant emotional heft….The delicacy with which Bender captures Roses tastes makes this not just a deeply felt novel but one of the most inventive pieces of food writing in recent memory.”–Time Out New York
“The fairy-tale elements in her writing, far from seeming outlandish, highlight the everyday nature of her characters’ flaws and struggles. In Ms. Bender’s stories and novels, relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities.”–Wall Street Journal
The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake Summary & Study Guide Description
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis tohelp you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about Rose, a young girl who discovers on her ninth birthday that she has a special ability for tasting the emotions of the person who has made the food. The first time she notices her unique tasting talent, she senses the tremendous sadness of her mother when she bakes Rose a chocolate lemon cake. Rose cannot bear to eat the cake. This puzzles her mother, Lane. Rose thinks a lot about the emotions in the food and begins to notice them in everything she eats, eventually pinpointing the origin of the ingredients. She turns to George, the friend of her distant and seemingly anti-social brother Joseph, to try to understand what is happening to her. Like Joseph, George has a keen interest in science and agrees to do some research experiments on her ability. While Roses newfound ability fascinates George, he is unaware of her growing crush on him.
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The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake By Aimee Bender
If you are what you eat, what happens when someone else eats what you are? In Aimee Bender’s latest novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, 9-year old Rose first experiences this conundrum when she tastes her mother’s birthday cake, only to come away with the uncomfortable understanding of her mothers lonely dissatisfaction with life. The cake betrays the inner feelings of the cook. Over the course of the novel and Roses life, the predicament continues, building to an unwanted fixation of what constitutes food and those who grow and prepare it.