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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

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3.20  ·  Rating details ·  53,917 ratings  ·  9,749 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 m
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Hardcover, 292 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Susie I wondered if, based on her discriptions, she was describing the brother as someone with Aspergers. But towards the end it seems clear he’s also…moreI wondered if, based on her discriptions, she was describing the brother as someone with Aspergers. But towards the end it seems clear he’s also inherited the disorder, which might be a form of intuitive empathy (if I had to name it & if one believes in that sort of thing). We all imbue material objects, and personify animals, with great meaning and I suppose there could be ways to read the novel metaphorically. The concept seems brilliant, but there’s great lack of clarity in this work. (less)
Jayant It's sad in an unexpected way, basically, it can be a little too "truthful", by which I mean it discusses the real struggles behind people lives, and…moreIt's sad in an unexpected way, basically, it can be a little too "truthful", by which I mean it discusses the real struggles behind people lives, and the truth with sadness can be a little too much at times.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  53,917 ratings  ·  9,749 reviews


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TK421
Mar 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS****

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
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Miki
Dec 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-read-again
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennie
Jul 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy

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
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Audrey
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
tee
Aug 27, 2011 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
Katherine
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
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Tracy
Mar 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, kindle, fiction
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
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Oriana
Apr 23, 2010 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
Kirstine
Jan 10, 2012 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. 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 asks questions I don’t quite know how to answer.
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Will Byrnes
Jul 07, 2010 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.

T
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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
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Flannery
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
JV (semi-hiatus)
Metaphorically decadent, but acridly convoluted.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a bizarre novel, but certainly not in a good way. The delectable premise of having a magical gift that can taste people's hidden emotions is fascinating, but when you infuse other individual's special "gifts" with a pint of magical realism into the already rich mixture, that's the time it becomes nauseously perplexing.

Yes, there's a bitter sadness in this novel, but I'm not emotionally invested in any of the
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Kelly
Oct 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alicia
Feb 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011-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
Erika Gill
Feb 04, 2012 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
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Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell

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When I looked at my friends' reviews for THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, I noticed that almost all of my friends who read it gave it negative reviews. After reading this book for myself, all I have to say is that this book proved to me that you can't always trust your friends. (Sorry, friends!) Reading is such a highly subjective experience, and what works for you doesn't always work for someone else (and vice-versa).



After reading th
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Helene Jeppesen
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was sweet, but also very puzzling!
It deals with 8-year-old Rose whose mother bakes her a lemon cake. As she’s sitting in the kitchen, tasting the cake, Rose’s tasting buds start evolving and scarily make her able to taste her mother’s deep down feeling and emotions. It turns out that from that day on, Rose can taste everyone’s feelings and emotions based on their food she’s eating.
The book takes an even more puzzling turn later on when Rose is a lot older, and we get to follow her ex
...more
Leah
Mar 17, 2010 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
jordan
May 07, 2010 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
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Arlene
Mar 03, 2011 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
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Paul E. Morph
Rose has a special ability: when she eats she can taste the emotions of the person who made the food. There’s more to it than that and this ability starts to define her life, as it forces her to see the world differently to anyone else. It’s a huge burden she must find some way to live with.

Every so often a book comes along that connects in a way very few others ever have. This was one of those books for me. I totally fell in love with Bender’s idiosyncratic writing style. I felt like this book
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 10, 2012 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
...more
Nancy
Mar 10, 2011 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
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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!
Rebecca
Jun 17, 2011 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
trina
Jan 21, 2011 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
Snotchocheez
Mar 16, 2013 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
Dale Harcombe
May 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
One and a half stars.
Rose Edelstein discovers she has acquired a unique talent. She can taste the emotion of her mother in the lemon cholate cake she makes for her birthday. But it is not a good feeling. She tastes her mother’s despair. From that point on Rose foods she can tell the feelings or emotions of the makers of other foods when tasted. Whether the people are, angry, lonely, frustrated or whatever other emotion they experience, Rose can taste it. Things people think are hidden are brough
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Play Book Tag: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - 2 stars 6 21 Oct 03, 2019 07:51AM  
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YA Buddy Readers'...: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Starting March 14, 2019 21 19 Apr 03, 2019 02:22PM  
Get Rid of ZEPHROFEL SOUTH AFRICA For Good 1 2 Feb 12, 2019 08:50PM  
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Why did Joseph disappear? 92 1832 Nov 05, 2018 10:25AM  
What was Joseph's 'gift'? 1 15 Aug 24, 2018 06:38PM  

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1,659 followers
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.
“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.” 104 likes
“We hit the sidewalk, and dropped hands. How I wished, right then, that the whole world was a street.” 69 likes
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