Sunday, September 11, 2011

Title:  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Author:  Aimee Bender
Publisher:  Knopf Doubleday

Goodreads Summary: 

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. 

My thoughts:

This book made me sad- after I read it, I felt slightly haunted by it, and empty.  What an awful thing, to be able to taste the emotions of the people who made the food, in the food.  To learn things about your mother, your friends, anyone, that you didn't want to know.  Especially for Rose, who is only nine when this begins, and learns more than is appropriate for her age, emotions that are adult and confusing. 

I felt so horrible for Rose, the whole book- she has an emotionally distant family, and she is reaching out for attention and love from them to be rejected.  The only person who seems to give her any attention at all is her brother's friend George. Her mother has a creepy weird obsession with Rose's older brother, that is so unhealthy yet her father does not see it or do anything about it if he does.  Rose's mother is flighty and can't seem to make decisions on her own, she needs a sign from the universe or a person to guide her, which she believed was Joseph, her oldest child and son.  Joseph was an another emotionally distant family member- except he was that way with his entire family, not just Rose.  He has his own special skill that we learn about at the end of the book, and it is extremely bizarre, and to be honest, I am not sure how I feel about it quite yet.  Her dad has moments where he surfaces from whereever he is, and is a parent and friend to Rose. Rose lives many years in an isolated world, where only her brother and George know of her "gift".  She struggles through this rugged life, dealing with all her mother's baggage with every bite, having to be more responsible and grown up than she should be.  The end of the book made me hopeful for Rose though; she finds good uses for her gift, and is beginning to break free of her family.

This book made me think about how we really do probably leave our emotions in what we make- we always hear about things being baked with love, and you really can taste the difference between something made with care and something that was not.  At one point, Rose eats her own food for the first time, and says she tastes a bit like a factory- I believe that she does because she made the food methodically, purposefully withholding emotion, so that she was not overwhelmed by her own feelings when she ate it. 

I am going to think twice now about my moods while I am cooking- I want only positive thoughts and energy going into my food! 

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