Friday, October 18, 2013

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Aimee Bender
Reviewed by: Nancy
4 out of 5 stars

Nine-year-old Rose Edelstein discovers her “gift” when she takes a bite out of her mother’s lemon cake. This gift is more of a curse, as Rose becomes privy to her mother’s emotional turmoil that is masked by her cheerful and outgoing personality.

This quirky novel is certainly not for everyone, and I wasn’t quite sure it was for me either, but I quickly got sucked into Rose’s life as she discovers family secrets and learns more about herself. When the emotions get too overwhelming for her, Rose resorts to eating as little homemade food as possible. As Rose gets more accustomed to her talent, she experiments, explores, and grows.

Rose is a quiet girl with few friends. Her father is a decent man, but he’s somewhat distant, and her brother is a loner.

I can’t help but admire her father, who thinks of those who are less fortunate than himself.

“He made a good salary but he did not flaunt it. He’d been raised in Chicago proper by a Lithuanian Jewish mother who had grown up in poverty, telling stories, often, of extending a chicken to its fullest capacity, so as soon as a restaurant served his dish, he would promptly cut it in half and ask for a to-go container. Portions are too big anyway, he’d grumble, patting his waistline. He’d only give away his food if the corners were cleanly cut, as he believed a homeless person would just feel worse eating food with ragged bitemarks at the edges – as if, he said, they are dogs, or bacteria. Dignity, he said, lifting his half-lasagna into its box, is no detail.”

Overall, I enjoyed this very unusual novel. It was not depressing or heavy, but left me with a lingering sadness as I thought about my own childhood. 

Also posted at Goodreads.