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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title and cover both caught my attention right away thanks to that delicious hunk of lemon cake and the shadow of the couple kissing! Halfway through the book, I inspected the cover again and realized it was a lonely girl and not two lovebirds. Now that I finished the story, I really do believe it is a couple kissing – perhaps what could have been if not for the cake – which makes the title even more heart wrenching.

Rose discovers on her ninth birthday that she can taste the mood of the person who made her meal. This ranges from a rushed cookie baker to a complacent lunch lady to processed food factory workers. Sadly, most of what passes the child’s lips comes from her mother who is secretly depressed and misunderstood by her workaholic husband. For the most part, poor Rose can’t seem to find any peace-laden calories and spends most of her childhood, teen years and early adulthood eating as a chore rather than a pleasure.

There really isn’t a plot, which is fine, but at times the middle of the book felt stretched – kind of like when you only have one can of frosting and have a huge cake to cover. That isn’t due to lack of potential material though. I wish there had been more about how Rose’s condition came to be. More experimentation. We learn late in the book that it’s a family trait that isn’t limited to her alone.

Even though I had a few issues, I’m giving this book four stars because of the imaginative and beautiful writing. In terms of cakes, this one is crafted from scratch with quality ingredients, detail, affection and dedication. Gourmet all the way. This author has a gift and that is what kept this reader enchanted. I loved the creativeness of Rose’s artist mom, and the way Rose’s prideful dad finally broke down and connected with his daughter.

This book kind of reminded me of a Sofia Coppola movie – heavy, soft, aimless, dreamy, odd, meaningful.

The down side? Well, the optimist in me craved a drizzle of sweetness. I felt sad, almost depressed while reading Lemon Cake. I held on, expecting some sort of shake up or life changing moment, but it never arrived in the grand manner I hoped for. What did was a surreal head-scratching-what-the-heck-just-happened-twist regarding Rose’s mysterious brother, followed by a very quiet ending.

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Kathy 🙂

Sharpen that chalk!

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