Kathrina's Reviews > The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
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Apr 01, 2011

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bookshelves: american-fiction, foodie
Read from April 01 to 08, 2011

A Story

Early on in her relationship with her current ex-husband, they sat one evening on a quiet bench outside the bustling collegetown nightlife and she asked him, rather wistfully, where did he see himself living in 10 years. He said, staring into his palms, he'd like to live in a little cabin, far, far away from any neighbors, chopping his own wood, growing his own food, and her by his side, of course. Oh, it was romantic. And then they married, and then they had a family, and then she realized that, though they had neighbors and bought their food, alone, alone was still what he wanted, not because it was romantic but because he just didn't like people -- all his angers and frustrations were someone else's fault, and the solution was to cut out everybody else, and she felt lonely and trapped and betrayed, alone with his anger at the world.
It did not end well.
After she left to join the world again, she found solace in providing love and sustenance to her children, her neighbors, her new friends, through food. She took a culinary arts class. She bought some cake pans. She bought a cookie press and a fondant roller and edible glitter and lots of high-cacao chocolate. As she shopped and mixed and baked and frosted she felt attached to the world again, serving dessert almost nightly, sharing the abundance with co-workers and neighbors. People smiled when she passed out slices of Grand Marnier torte or raspberry cream cupcakes; her children sat down amazed to a blazing Baked Alaska, and their dirty dishes and the burns on her fingers and the ache in her back and the huge grocery bills were worth it. If only they never tasted her fear, her grief, her bitterness baked in. Please, she pleaded, let them only taste the sweet.


I love Aimee Bender's style. She can write emotion as riveting as an action-thriller and as perceptive as memoir, and her fantastical conceit in this novel is perfectly suited to this talent. Her narrator's ability to taste mood and lineage in food is so well-crafted that it failed to seem so impossible a talent as the book progressed. But her cast of supporting characters felt unbalanced and, at times, under-explored. It is unusual that I feel this way about a novel, but I felt a much keener identification with her mother's character than I did with the narrator, and felt completely unsympathetic to her father. Despite her father's distanced character, something about Bender's attention to his narrative felt unrealized and lacking. It could be personal.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by jo (new) - rated it 2 stars

jo i wish i were reading this.

Kathrina Um, you can. This is ominous...Please explain.

message 3: by jo (new) - rated it 2 stars

jo hahaha. no no, i know i can, it's just that i don't have it right here with me at this very moment. that's all.

Kathrina The particular sadness of a paperbound book's location.

message 5: by jo (new) - rated it 2 stars

jo in fact, i just discovered that it's one of the very few books the library has on e-loan. so you see, no sadness at all!

Kathrina I look forward to reading your review!

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