The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an odd little book. Aimee Bender paints a surreal world populated by fragile and vulnerable characters hounded by secrets and unusual gifts.
The novel begins with cake. A chocolate lemon cake, to be exact. Rose’s mother bakes her a chocolate lemon cake for her ninth birthday. When she takes a bite, she tastes her mother’s loneliness and hollowness. Soon after that, she begins to taste the emotions of whoever makes the food she eats. This becomes unbearable for her that she takes refuge in junkfood and vending machines. Her unusual superpower reveals people’s innermost secrets and desires and it helps unfurl the problems within Rose’s family.
It is easy to get lost in Bender’s language because she tells Rose’s coming-of-age tale with such beautiful prose that dispenses fantastical qualities to mundane everyday activities. However, I felt like the individual stories of Rose’s family should have been explored more. Insights into their lives were told in snippets and seemed to lead nowhere. In turn, the characters were not fully developed and plenty of questions were left unanswered. Having said that, I do enjoy reading Bender’s prose and I love how she uses Rose’s strange gift/curse as a metaphor for losing one’s innocence. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is definitely an interesting read.
This was a post by Hanna, who wants to bake a pie.