Author:  Aimee Bender

ISBN:  978-0-385-50112-5

 Click Here To Purchase The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel

From almost the moment I began reading this book, I was immediately struck by the absolutely poetic beauty of the writing.  Rose Edelstein, a young girl about to celebrate her ninth birthday, is narrating – letting the reader know how her mother could “coax a strawberry-plant into a vine” or, “stitch doilies from vintage lace.”  She also went on to tell about how her father comes home from the office every day.  He has the strong chin and jaw of the Provider of the family, and he always smiles at Mom with a heart so happy and a look of love so pure, that Rose is always taken aback with the way her parents treat each other. 

On this particular day, Mom is making a cake for Rose.  She is adding the flour, stirring wickedly, and talking to Rose in the kitchen, telling her of the wonderful lemon cake that will soon be hers.  (You can almost feel the warm kitchen, and smell the fragrant mouth-watering mixture of butter, sugar, and lemon wafting through the air).  Rose also has an older brother named Joe.  Joe is the quiet sort; he spends most of his time looking up, and studying the stars and planets that are far, far away.  In fact, he wears a wishful look on his face most of the time, as if hoping he could soar into the vastness of the sky and leave the earth far behind.

When Rose runs for the cake and takes her first bite, she is overwhelmed with sadness; it is as if the cake is hollow.  Rose suddenly feels like her stomach is churning, and she’s sinking into an endless pit of nothingness where no one will ever hear her or see her again.  Very soon, every meal seems to become a chore for Rose.  It’s as if her mother – who is the owner of a constant smile and happy voice – has a secret buried inside her soul that only comes out in her food.  Rose can almost hear her mother “screaming” for someone to help her.

Rose begins to notice odd things about her mother, such as the fact that she never seems to sleep through the night; and how excited her mother suddenly gets when she lands a job building things – like bookshelves and cupboards.  Mom loves working with her hands and is absolutely thrilled to be learning carpentry skills.  Dad turns a bit surly when Mom begins to talk about the new direction her life is taking, and the food on the dinner table gets worse and worse.

 Joe’s best friend helps Rose, as the feelings she gets from food products become worse and worse.  In fact, she can taste a cookie and know that the person who made it hates their job; or, she can try a cupcake and know automatically that the person who baked it was late for something and was frantically trying to get everything done.  Rose can “taste” the emotions and feel the hard choices and lessons learned – everything good and bad that someone was feeling when they prepared the treat.  The once beautiful, kind world that surrounds Rose soon turns into a stark reality.  The dreams that her brother Joe once had turn into nightmares, and the once-romantic couple that was her parents slowly vanish, replaced by virtual strangers that Rose doesn’t understand. 

The writing is truly superb.  The author pulls you in to the story and you find yourself thinking back on the choices that you’ve made throughout your life.  As we all know – some are good, others bad – but they never usually happen without difficulty.  The ups and downs of this book are so descriptive that you feel like you are in that kitchen, in that small neighborhood, wishing with all your heart you could help Rose and Joe as they grow into adulthood.  I look forward to many years of writing from this wonderful author.

 

  Click Here To Purchase The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel