The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

sadness of lemon cake

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.

4 thoughts on “The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

  1. Reblogged this on The Kerry Diaries and commented:
    Imagine having the ability to taste people’s feelings in the food they make? What an incredible gift.

    This post really appealed to me because 1. I love food and 2. I think we should stop and think about all the effort that goes into preparing delicious food.

    My sister is a Cordon Bleu chef and I know that food holds a special place in her heart and that each and every meal she makes for us has a little bit of magic in it. This kind of passion for food really translates into the final product and makes such a difference to the quality of the food.

    So if you share this opinion then definitely find this book and give it a read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this book! Even though it was slightly surreal (though most of my favourite books have a little of the surreal about them) it really resonated, because food is a very emotional thing for me. Cooking for someone is literally like feeding people your love, it’s like giving someone a piece of yourself. The power food has to stir up memories and feelings is incredible. It was such a clever vehicle for what could have been a normal family dysfunction kind of story, and Rose was so endearing, I couldn’t help feeling a bit protective of her even as she grew up. Thanks for sharing! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with everything you say here so much! I love that magic realism in books, it’s my favourite thing, I think. But I also think you’re so right about cooking and food! It’s funny but trur


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