Nancy's Reviews > The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
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Oct 18, 13

bookshelves: library-books, food-and-drink, weird, fiction, shelf-inflicted
Read from June 19 to 24, 2010


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 overwhelming for her, Rose resorts to eating as little homemade food as possible. As Rose gets more accustomed to her talent, she experiments, explores, and grows.

Rose is a quiet girl with few friends. Her father is a decent man, but he’s somewhat distant, and her brother is a loner.

I can’t help but admire her father, who thinks of those who are less fortunate than himself.

“He made a good salary but he did not flaunt it. He’d been raised in Chicago proper by a Lithuanian Jewish mother who had grown up in poverty, telling stories, often, of extending a chicken to its fullest capacity, so as soon as a restaurant served his dish, he would promptly cut it in half and ask for a to-go container. Portions are too big anyway, he’d grumble, patting his waistline. He’d only give away his food if the corners were cleanly cut, as he believed a homeless person would just feel worse eating food with ragged bitemarks at the edges – as if, he said, they are dogs, or bacteria. Dignity, he said, lifting his half-lasagna into its box, is no detail.”


Overall, I enjoyed this very unusual novel. It was not depressing or heavy, but left me with a lingering sadness as I thought about my own childhood.
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Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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message 1: by Evan (new)

Evan Surprisingly, not by the folks who brought us "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"...


message 2: by Evan (new)

Evan And I might add there is nothing inherently sad about lemon cake, even if it tends to be on the dry side.


message 3: by Nancy (last edited Jun 14, 2010 06:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nancy It's only sad when you eat too much lemon cake and can't fit into your clothes. Have you read The Elegance of the Hedgehog?


message 4: by Emilie (new)

Emilie i've never read aimee bender before. i'm curious what you'll think.


Nancy So far, so good, Emilie. It's kind of a sad story about a 9-year-old girl who feels the emotions of the people who make the food she consumes.


message 6: by Emilie (new)

Emilie that sounds intriguing. it would be an interesting ability to have too, for awhile i imagine. though i could see that leading to not eating, as well. *grins* and it'd be funny too, if she needs to prepare food for herself as a way to get in touch with her own emotions.


Nancy I do all my own food preparation (except when I eat at a restaurant or my mom's). Imagine how difficult this ability can be for a child who has much less control of her food and discovers emotions revealed through the food that don't show on the surface.


message 8: by Emilie (new)

Emilie yes, nancy, i agree that when a child knows the emotions of her primary caregiver that the caregiver doesn't acknowledge, and is either consciously or unconsciously hiding from that child this is often a frightening, disorienting thing.
and would be so, even if she stopped eating, for she would still be aware of a painful complexity that would shift her conception of reality (what is true?) as well as identity (who is true? which is the real version of the caregiver?) that challenges her sense of safety and her ability to create meaning. and this would be very isolating.


Nancy When I think about my childhood, I remember my mom's pain was so close to the surface that it was easily apparent if you were observant enough. Knowing her deepest emotions would have been too much for me to handle, I think.


message 10: by Emilie (new)

Emilie "dignity...is no detail" is a beautiful quote.
really cool review!

nancy, i can relate to that. i felt that i felt too much of my mother's pain as a child.


message 11: by Rossy (new) - added it

Rossy Truly fantastic review, Nancy! I'm going to have to check my library and see if they have it.


Nancy Thanks Emilie & Rossy! :) I got my copy from the new releases shelf at the library and it's already been requested. I'm going to check out her short story collections. The author has a very unusual style that I find appealing.


message 13: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Hey! Great review! :) For what ages would you recommend this book? I can't seem to find any age ranges on this one, but it sounds very interesting!


Nancy Thanks, Sarah. :) The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is definitely an unusual coming-of-age story, but one I think only older teens would appreciate.


message 15: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn What a wonderful quote Nancy!


message 16: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday i love aimee bender! she was in my undergraduate writing clas at UC San Diego way back in 88-90. she was incredibly talented even back then.


Petra X smokin' hot I love the quote. This is not my kind of book, but I think I might try it anyway now.


message 18: by Nancy (last edited Mar 02, 2011 04:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nancy This has to be one of the oddest books I've ever read and while it's not without flaws, this is certainly an author I want to read more of. Very cool that she was a classmate, Mark.

I love the quote too, so much that I was able to look past many of the character's imperfections.


message 19: by Frankie (new) - added it

Frankie I've wanted to read this book for a while now, and I wasn't sure if I should but your review made it for me.


message 20: by Nancy (last edited Apr 08, 2011 01:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nancy I hope you enjoy the book, Frankie. I'd definitely read more by this author.


message 21: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason I love benders short stories for anyone who is looking for a more of her work


Ellie I really like Bender's work. I also really liked your review.


message 23: by James (new)

James Thane And here I am, eating a piece of lemon pound cake for lunch as I read your review!


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