The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender)

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a novel by Aimee Bender.

For her 9th birthday, Rose’s mom bakes a lemon cake for her. But when she eats it, all Rose can taste are her mom’s feelings – a sadness, a hollowness that completely overwhelms Rose. And from that day on, Rose can taste all the feelings of everybody involved in the making of her food, good or bad. While Rose slowly discovers truths about her parents’ relationship, her brother and other people around her, all she actually wants is to be able to enjoy a meal without getting assaulted by unwanted information.

I picked up The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake quite at random at the airport. Which is usually something you should never ever do – something about airports makes my judgment about books incredibly wonky. But in this case I was very happy I did – it’s a beautiful, wistful novel that drew me right in.

I like fantastic realism when it’s done right and it works really well here. I loved that the person who had the least problem with what Rose was experiencing was the guy who was the most scientific and well-adjusted of them all. It gave the whole thing just an anchoring in realism that you need to make the fantastic elements in a novel like this work.

And it was beautifully written, but not in a pretentious “look how good I am with words” way. The only thing that bothered me a bit was that Bender didn’t use quotation marks. But I got used to it.

And I just really liked Rose and her story and how it progressed. And I liked her family and their story that is at once so extraordinary and completely normal.

Towards the end it does get a bit long, but only the tiniest bit and you can read the book so quickly that it doesn’t really matter. And I’d rather have bit too much of it than too little.

Summarising: I just really loved the book.

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