Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: a Review

I recently requested the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. The title was perfect, the synopsis was intriguing and the book was on several summer "must read" lists I had seen in the media. So when the book arrived, I took it home and began to read.

The prose in this book is so beautifully written I found myself reading sentences two or three times on many occasions. Aimee Bender constructs beautiful similes and metaphors, and I love the way she had her characters use them frequently in conversation.

The book begins with 8 year old Rose Edelstein discovering she can taste, in any kind of food, the emotions of the person who made it. As you can imagine, this can be very cumbersome and on occasion flat-out horrifying. She goes on to discover that not only does she taste the emotions of the preparer, but the entire history of the ingredients, be they factory produced or grown on a farm, etc. She tries to explain her skill early on, but soon finds it better if she keeps her ability to herself and copes with it as best as she can.

The book moves on to explore the other characters in the book, most of whom are above-average intelligent members of her family, unfolding the separate but intersecting lives of her distant father, her borderline-insane genius brother, who harbors a mysterious and unsettling skill of his own, and her unfulfilled and disloyal mother.

While the overall plot of the story is a little strange, and your heart aches for many of the characters (whom I found myself wanting to either hug on slap on more than one occasion) this is overshadowed by Aimee Bender's ability to construct beautiful metaphors and elegant sentences. It is a novel that kept me glued to the pages, and one I would read again. I have a feeling there is still so much to discover in the pages.

Click here for review of the book from NPR and to read an excerpt.

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