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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

3.18  ·  Rating Details ·  46,580 Ratings  ·  8,820 Reviews
The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.

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
Hardcover, First edition, 292 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Neesi I would say Adult, maybe Young Adult for the right teenager. If the teen is traumatized by a troubled marriage on the part of their parents, I would…moreI would say Adult, maybe Young Adult for the right teenager. If the teen is traumatized by a troubled marriage on the part of their parents, I would not recommend they read this book. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 12, 2011 TK421 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary

Every so often a book comes along that creates a divisive turmoil in me. Sometimes these books make me angry; sometimes they make me shake my head in wonder as to why exactly I read it; sometimes it takes months for me to really understand just how impactful the book was to me, which helps clear some of the fog or guilt or happiness or sadness or whatever I felt while reading it. THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE is such a book. Let me first say that this
You know what this book is? It's Chinese food. As soon as it's brought up you start salivating, almost tasting how delicious each morsel is going to be. The minute you dive in, your body humming with anticipation, that first bite is everything you hoped it would be. But, after awhile, the bites become more forceful, the taste more dull and average, ending with a full belly, but still not feeling full. And the minute you put your fork down and give in to your limit, you know in half an hour you'r ...more
Oct 22, 2014 Miki rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-read-again
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 02, 2013 Jennie rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Posted at Shelf Inflicted

Nine-year-old Rose Edelstein discovers her “gift” when she takes a bite out of her mother’s lemon cake. This gift is more of a curse, as Rose becomes privy to her mother’s emotional turmoil that is masked by her cheerful and outgoing personality.

This quirky novel is certainly not for everyone, and I wasn’t quite sure it was for me either, but I quickly got sucked into Rose’s life as she discovers family secrets and learns more about herself. When the emotions get too ov
Dec 05, 2010 Audrey rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 31, 2011 tee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own, favourites
If this book was a person I would fuck it with the sensitivity required of banging a lithe, twee hipster who loves cats, typewriters, sunshine and forests. Then I would take an overexposed photo of our intertwined post-coitus naked bodies whilst we wear bunny masks and straight into the wank bank it'd go. Though I must say, this book if it were an IRL person would be like Lee Holloway, all presumed innocence but in fact kinky as hell. Not that the book is kinky, it's deranged. A little off. So m ...more
I'm several chapters in and annoyed at the author's choice to completely ignore the style rule of punctuating dialogue with quotation marks. Hello? There's a reason for the rule, it alerts the reader that the words enclosed within those quotation marks are spoken words and allows the writing to flow smoothly.

Over the last few years we've seen more and more books published where writers attempt to be innovative or clever by messing with standard punctuation and in my opinion few have been succes
Jun 16, 2010 Oriana rated it liked it
after: oh dear. oh Aimee. i love you so, have loved you so, continue to love you so, but i am so sorry to say that this book was a bit of a disappointment. it felt... unfinished. hinted at. like an early draft, almost. i know how stunning you can be, and it isn't that this is bad or anything... it's just not up to the standard i expected. which is probably partially my fault. probably just like The Ticking Is the Bomb , just like The Learners , just like The Great Perhaps , just like all post ...more
Will Byrnes
Apr 06, 2016 Will Byrnes rated it it was ok
Bender uses magical realism in a coming of age tale, as young (9) Rosie begins to taste emotions in her food, which can make it a bit tough to keep down a meal. Her first taste of her new talent arrives with an empty feeling when Mom and Dad are going through a difficult time. Rosie must also cope with an older sibling, Joseph, to whom her mother attributes near-mystical qualities. In addition, as her talent has given her unnatural insight, she becomes the keeper of her mother’s darkest secret.

Nov 14, 2015 Kirstine rated it really liked it
I have struggled for very long with how to review this book. Normally I can manage to spew out something at some point, but this has had me puzzled for so long. I simply don’t know how to say what I want to say about it.

It was not what I expected at all. I expected a sweet, coming of age book in the vein of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The kind of book you didn’t necessarily have to take too seriously or think about for too long. Instead it was an incredibly tender and profound book that as
Mar 03, 2011 Tracy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ebook, kindle
Reading this so I can talk and/or rage about it with Mattie.

I left a lot of rage in my comment on another review, but I will just say this book was an utter disappointment. The lack of quotation marks was annoying, but I could have gotten past that. Rose's ability was interesting in and of itself, but the author failed absolutely at doing anything interesting WITH it ... for a good half of the book it was an afterthought, an irrelevance. And when it was mentioned, it was disjointed, incoherent a
Hannah Jane
Wow. Extremely disturbing and haunting. And it was so depressing for most of the book but only because I didn't understand it until much too late.

I will list my most favorite parts.

#1. On page 64 - "...The punching bag tucked inside every chocolate chip." Also on the next page when the sandwich is telling her to love it. So funny and so incredibly inventive.

#2. Chapter 20 - This page was the very first time it hit me that no one ever sent anything to the grandma. And it really hit me. I had to
Apr 22, 2011 Kelly rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2010 Flannery rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erika Gill
Feb 09, 2013 Erika Gill rated it really liked it
I'm not sure I have it in me to go into a really descriptive review of this novel. But I will say a few things about my response to it.

1) It made me sad. Well, sadder. I was already pretty sad for a number of reasons and this book did not help. It's about a girl who is a victim to all of the emotions in the world. Her brother is mentally and later physically absent from her life, her dad gives up, and her mother is an incredibly selfish, self-absorbed woman, and Rose suffers a lot of disappoint
Feb 12, 2011 Alicia rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011-books-read
This book had a great premise, but went absolutely nowhere. Ok, so she can taste people's feelings and exactly where the food came from. Seems like two totally different talents to me, but here are combined as one. I wish it would've only been people's feelings because i think the author takes an easy out with having Rose want to eat only highly processed foods because there is less human interaction. This gives Rose an easy way to not deal with her problem. I also thought the entire Joseph stor ...more
Jan 05, 2016 Leah rated it it was amazing
Ohhhhhh, so, so good! At nine, Rose bites into a piece of cake and discovers that she can taste the emotions of whomever made the food she is eating. I kind of felt like Rose while reading this book - I could feel the emotions of the characters, which made it an intense, moving, slightly overwhelming experience. I feel like I've been run over by an emotional tractor, but not in a bad way...just in that my-god-life-is-messy-and-beautiful-and-how-the-hell-do-we-make-sense-of-it kind of way. Phew. ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Aug 05, 2016 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Hooked by Title and Cover
Okay, I’ll bite…A premise both odd and original about a girl who at the tender age of nine develops the ability to taste the feelings of the person who prepares her food. Obviously she learns more than she can handle, most difficult the window to her own mother’s sadness. I liked the pacing, the way the story quietly unfolded. Full of the complications of a dysfunctional family, a few of them with strange, hidden abilities of there own...
Problem was it felt incomplete, too many loose ends. Case
Mar 03, 2011 Arlene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: GoodReads Giveaway Winner
Shelves: awful, read-2011
~jumps up and down~
I finished! I finished! Good Gawd I finished the book!!

A Particular Sadness for Lemon Cake is a combination of unique, disturbing and unorganized. I have no other words to describe this novel as I found myself tuning in and out of the events as they were slapped together in a messy sort of way that made me feel tossed around from scene to scene in a random fashion.

First off, it took me a few chapters to even achieve mild interest, but then when Part II came along all the way
May 07, 2010 jordan rated it it was amazing
Several reviewers have done a fine job of describing the characters and plot of Aimee Bender's lovely new novel, "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake," and I see no reason to be redundant by reviewing the same material. However, I think a word is in order about the differing reaction among reviewers to this work.

Aimee Bender's magical realism, the use of the fantastical to explore the depths of the human heart, belongs to a particular tradition of writing. While to my mind Bender continues to b
Mar 23, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
Sometimes I really, really want to like a book. I really wanted to love "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake," because the lovely Sherry H so kindly sent it to me. Thanks, Sherry! That was so nice of you!

My initial resistance to this novel was that I thought it would be too twee, too frothily chick-littish, and it was neither of those things. Bender is an eloquent writer with a gift for stripping her characters down to their quivering nerve-ends. Unfortunately for me, though, this novel falls s
Oct 17, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
All right, this is much of what I'm looking for in literary fiction. Many of the things that can bog a literary novel down go right here. The Edelstein family is made up of lost, flawed people who nonetheless are trying and so win your heart in their ordinariness. The plot is gentle and wholly subservient to character development, but Bender does have an ending in mind. No one's living happily ever after, but there's enough resolution to feel like an actual story. Since I frequently get terribly ...more
Dec 12, 2015 Snotchocheez rated it liked it
I wanted to love love love this (and sometimes I even did), but 8 year-old Rose's narration (mucked up by no quotation marks) couldn't quite rise above the weirdness of her ability to intuit the emotion of the preparer of her meals. It reminded me a bit of Karen Russell (or at least the magical melancholy evoked in Swamplandia! and some of her short stories). I really enjoyed, too, revisiting my old stomping grounds (Hollywood and Los Feliz in Southern California). Just wish The Particular Sad ...more
Jan 22, 2011 trina rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: absolutely no one
for having such a fantastic and intriguing premise, this book sure is completely godawful. being a fan of magic realism, and of 'like water for chocolate', another book about emotion informing food and the course of an entire family's existence, i thought for sure i'd enjoy a book about a little girl who can taste people's emotions by eating the food they've prepared and how she copes with learning her loved one's deepest secrets... i was wrong. or at least i pinned my hopes on the wrong book. i ...more
Neil Schleifer
In this strangely dreamlike narrative, Rose Edelstein can taste in the food people cook the emotions of those who created it. In fact, as the book goes on, we learn that most of the Edelstein family has the gift … or curse … of empathizing with others in various sensory ways – taste, smell and physical transformation. Rather than make them more positively sensitive about the feelings of others, however, it turns each of them into solitary creatures who will do anything NOT to feel. They avoid, t ...more
Apr 23, 2011 Jeana rated it it was ok
Shelves: escapism
Okay, this book took a really weird turn for me about 3/4 of the way through. I was going along with it, enjoying the read, and liked the elements of tasting people in the food they prepared (even though I thought it could have been expressed a little better). But the last part is just plain weird.

While I suspended my realistic nature for most of the book, when Joseph started becoming a chair, it lost me. It lost my trust and my favor. The writing was good. I liked the character. But th
mark monday
Nov 13, 2010 mark monday rated it liked it
when i first met aimee bender in a writing class at ucsd, she was the most magical yet misunderstood writer in the room. over two decades later, it's nice to see that nothing has changed. she is consistently original. i'd say that she writes like a lighter, equally offbeat, miniature version of tom robbins. except i don't really like robbins and i sure do like bender. go, aimee bender! go, ucsd!
Feb 03, 2012 Noce rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Manifestazioni in piazza, Italia paralizzata, il malcontento lievita e le torte dicono “No!”

Stamattina l’Italia si è svegliata col più dolce degli aromi, quello delle torte in forno e delle paste alla crema. Purtroppo non è tutto oro quel che odora. Ma sentiamo cos’ha da dirci il nostro inviato.

- Sì, buongiorno, qua la situazione è critica. All’inizio sembrava una qualsiasi manifestazione pacifica, ma le forze dell’ordine non erano preparate a un tale incremento di manifestanti.

Ci sono cortei ch
Mar 23, 2015 Jill rated it it was ok
First and foremost, I want to thank the Goodreads FirstRead program and the publisher for gifting me with a copy of this book. I wish I could review it more favorably.

Lemon Cake appears to have all the ingredients of success: a talented author, a fascinating start, an intriguing premise. Yet at the end of the day, this “cake” just seems to fall flat.

The beginning is promising enough: nine-year-old Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade cake and discovers to her own astonishment that she
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Aimee Bender is the author of the novel An Invisible Sign of My Own and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures. Her work has been widely anthologized and has been translated into ten languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
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“Many kids, it seemed, would find out that their parents were flawed, messed-up people later in life, and I didn't appreciate getting to know it all so strong and early.” 90 likes
“We hit the sidewalk, and dropped hands. How I wished, right then, that the whole world was a street.” 56 likes
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