28 June 2013

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

After several years in the list of books I wanted to read, I finally made it around to Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  It was not at all what I expected it to be.

The blurb/synopsis is simple enough: "On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she’s privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern."

Yet within that simple premise is the seed of a novel that is anything but simple.  The characters are all so delightfully complex, the story so full melancholy, that somehow, despite the fantastical premise, it seemed to be one of the most real novels I have read in a long time.

One of the aspects I most enjoyed about Lemon Cake was the way the characters grew with it; we get to watch Rose grow up into a young woman, and her family ages along with her.  We see their relationships change and develop; we see Rose learn to cope with her ability.  And yet, the story is never sugar-coated: there is love and loss and heartbreak, just as there is in every family.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is stronger for it.

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Books: Reading John Grisham's The Last Juror as research into thrillers, though so far I've yet to reach the thriller part...maybe this one is just a legal drama.  I kind of pulled it off the library shelf at random.

Bottles: Got a beautiful bottle of Joseph Phelps Insignia 2009, but I won't be drinking it for a while yet...it looks great, though.

Writing: I have been remiss in writing, focusing on other pursuits, but I hope to get back to it soon.

Guitar: Looking at songs by Imagine Dragons, including "Radioactive" and "Amsterdam."  They are super-fun.