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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. 

I had been waiting on the Library hold queue for this book for quite a while.  After seeing it mentioned by several friends and seeing the synopsis of it, I expected to be blown away by the story.  Not sure why I expected this, as I studiously avoided reading any reviews so as the story would not be spoiled for me, but I went into the book with high expectations.  

This was my mistake.  It was a "nice" book.  Well written with a good story concept.  It flowed well and I cared for the, relatively, few characters in the book.  As usual there is a but at this point.  The story concept was good but it just did not go the way I expected or wanted it to go.  Difficult to explain why without inserting spoilers but lets say if the author had focused on Rose's "gift" along with, say, her Grandfathers and Fathers to see where it came from, then I would have enjoyed it more.  Instead, the story went into Joseph's gift (or at least implied gift) which was just too strange for me and did not match the hereditary gifts of Rose, her Father and Grandfather.  Either the story of Joseph needs to be dropped or gone into in more detail.  I don't normally say a book needs to be longer (as most tend to be overwritten and too long) but this one left me with the feeling of reading a short story.  Where you are just starting to get into the story and then suddenly it is over.   

Another unnecessary part of the story is the affair that her mother is having (I don't class this as a spoiler as it comes out fairly early on and doesn't affect any other part of the story, in my opinion).

I expected this book to be about the emotions that this girl can feel in food but it seemed to lack emotion to me.  It was rather matter of fact in many areas, which I normally like, but I wanted more emotion as that is what I felt I had been promised from the marketing blurbs.

I have given it 3 stars out of 5 as it is a good little "short" story book and it may be more enjoyable to other people who go into it with different expectations to me.

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