Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

As much as I enjoyed this book, I just did not understand it.  I am slightly embarassed to admit this.  I'm an intelligent young woman.  I majored in English, and it was always my best subject.  There is very little that has left me scratching my head.

This book started off intriguing and wonderful.  People often say that food is "made with love," but what if you could really taste the emotions that were coursing through the chef's psyche as he or she prepared your food?  Nine year old Rose develops this mystical skill on her birthday.  Instead of tasting fresh lemon and chocolate in the birthday cake her mother bakes her, she tastes insecurity and desperation.  

As teenagers or adults we realize that our parents are flawed.  Imagine discovering their true feelings, imperfections, and secret affairs when you are an innocent child.  These complex plot points are augmented by author Aimee Bender's lyrical prose.  I could actually taste the foods and emotions along with young Rose.  However, the plot veered more from magical realism to weirdness, for lack of a more technical term.  Rose's older brother has mystical secrets of his own, which completely tear the already detached family apart.  I trusted the trajectory of the story and expected some sort of explanation or insight to wash over me, but I just did not understand the ending.  Bender obviously tried to compare Rose's extraordinary taste to her brother's strange detachment, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around the analogy.  If you've read this book and you have a more salient idea about the meaning of this, can you clue me in?

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