Nine-year-old Rose is excited to bite into her mother’s homemade lemon cake. Little does she know she’s about to learn about a peculiar gift: Rose can taste the emotions of the person who created the food. If the person loves to cook and finds the experience joyful, she will taste the joy. If the person feels trapped and upset, the sense of despair will come through in the taste of the food, say, in a lemon cake made by a mother anxious to change her life but unsure what to do.
While Rose is too young to fully realize the full impact of the emotions she’s tasting, she’s still upset and reaches out in the way she knows how. For years, she sticks to eating processed food to escape the emotions (and she can narrow foods down to the factories and farms that produced them). In part through food and its affect on Rose we learn about her father’s curious detachment, her mother’s affair, and her brother’s odd, almost Asperger-like behavior.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I appreciated the concept. I enjoy novels about food and family life, and I generally love magic realism. While there are a few things in the second half of the novel that made me scratch my head, I’m happy I read this. (I’m also very happy I can enjoy food without learning about the emotional state of the cook.)
Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Author: Aimee Bender
Source: Nook E-book
Read: September 2011