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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  63,619 ratings  ·  10,415 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
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Annie I dont think he made himself into a chair but fused himself and made one with the chair. If he turned into a chair there would be two chairs the "orig…moreI dont think he made himself into a chair but fused himself and made one with the chair. If he turned into a chair there would be two chairs the "original" and him.
I thought it was so sad how she begs him to only use that one chair so she could always know where he is. I almost cried.(less)
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 n…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)

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Average rating 3.24  · 
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 ·  63,619 ratings  ·  10,415 reviews

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Mar 04, 2011 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
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.
Jul 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, i-own
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

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
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
The Edelstein family seems "normal" to outsiders, but the dysfunction of each family member makes up the gist of this story with Rose, the youngest, caught in the middle, especially when just before her 9th birthday, she learns that she possesses a "gift". Throughout the story, she learns how to understand, how to cope within her family and its secrets.

Sometimes I sympathized with Rose, and sometimes she annoyed me, but as I kept listening, I began to understand why she did (or didn't) do the th
Mar 02, 2011 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 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 al ...more
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.

Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ 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
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
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
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
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
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
Oct 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Berengaria di Rossi
Sep 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A very deceptive novel indeed.

At first taste, this novel imbues you with sunshine. 1950s Betty-Crocker-happy-housewife goodness floods the palate so strongly that you this lemon cake not too sweet? Will I be able to get through all the sugar? Perhaps I should put it aside and save my taste buds the grainy torture.

But that would be only the frosting you're tasting. And yes, the frosting is sweet, and light and imbued with California sunshine, but what lurks beneath is far from all of
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
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
Christy Hall
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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! ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: GoodReads Giveaway Winner
Shelves: read-2011, awful
~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
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
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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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.

Articles featuring this book

This contemporary fairy tale scribe offers a second novel of surrealist whimsy, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, about a girl who can taste...
31 likes · 4 comments
“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.” 105 likes
“We hit the sidewalk, and dropped hands. How I wished, right then, that the whole world was a street.” 74 likes
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