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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  40,707 ratings  ·  8,059 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 (first published 2010)
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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. SeussTwilight by Stephenie MeyerThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee BenderThe Cupcake Queen by Heather HeplerMake Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Food on the Cover
3rd out of 655 books — 331 voters
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Favorite Magical Realism Novels
30th out of 829 books — 3,738 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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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
Erika Gill
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
Mar 18, 2010 Leah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: tob
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
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
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Feb 20, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Mar 03, 2011 Arlene rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
Jan 22, 2011 trina rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
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
mark monday
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!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This storyline certainly had the potential for being a fascinatingly original novel about a young girl, Rose, who on the eve of her 9th birthday realizes that while eating a piece of homemade cake, that her mom is extremely sad. Confused, as a 9 year old would be, she doesn’t realize till it begins happening again and again, that by eating food prepared by someone she’s able to tell what kind of mood they are in.

I found this to be a variation of synesthesia, where individual letters of the alpha
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Word Game 4 20 Dec 20, 2014 11:09AM  
Why did Joseph disappear? 86 1262 Dec 17, 2014 10:58AM  
La Stamberga dei ...: L'inconfondibile tristezza della torta al limone di Aimee Bender 1 5 Oct 12, 2014 05:54AM  
BOOK LOVERS!: Talking book 1 14 Apr 24, 2014 03:27AM  
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Confused? 9 154 Dec 01, 2013 09:42PM  
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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.
More about Aimee Bender...
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt Willful Creatures An Invisible Sign of My Own The Color Master: Stories Tin House: Fantastic Women

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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.” 77 likes
“I could feel the tears beginning to collect in my throat again, but I pushed them apart, away from each other. Tears are only a threat in groups.” 48 likes
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