I picked this up because I really like books like Like Water For Chocolate, stories that have a hint of magic, but that are otherwise kind of about everyday life. (Magic realism is one of our favourite genres).
Rose Edelstein is turning 9 when her mother makes her a beautiful lemon cake with chocolate icing. But when Rose bites into it, she can taste her mother’s desperate loneliness and sadness. Rose finds she has the ability to taste the people’s feelings in food, from the person who picked the tomatoes in her pasta sauce, to the chef who whipped them into a gourmet meal. It’s a gift that she struggles to come to terms with, as she finds that she can’t eat anything without being overcome with feelings.
Rose’s gift sets her apart from her school friends, but it draws her into her family in a new way. Knowing her mother’s sadness and yearning, she comes to know more about her family and their feelings than an ordinary child would.
It’s a portrait of a family, and a girl surviving growing up and understanding the emotional climate of those around her, from her bright but distant brother, her warm but distracted mother and her father, a man unable to get too close. I love the way the book passes from her ninth birthday through her childhood to adulthood, expressing her anger and frustration, the longings she can’t express and her struggle to live with her curse, til she can find a way to turn it into a gift. It’s a lovely book, with a few interesting surprises, and I loved the descriptions of suburban life and growing up in Los Angeles.
Read It If: you like your books about real life, but with a little magic. Bittersweet and lovely.