The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I don't know what to think of this book, honestly. I started reading it with very low expectations and ended up torn between loving it and being completely confused by it. So, let's start with the basics. A lot of reviews I read prior to my reading commented on the difficulty following the story because there are no quotation marks around the dialogue. It was confusing at first, sorting through what was said, what was action and what was thought and the author's use of "he said, he said, he said" to distinguish dialogue is vaguely annoying (rules are there for a reason!), about 3/4 of the way through the book it started to soak into me, the layering of dialogue, thought and action - how all of these things make up life and our personal reality is constantly shifting and evolving because of these three things. It suddenly made sense and the book flowed that much better for me.
The story itself is a clunky back and forth beast. We go forward and back and learn and relearn in this story as secrets are revealed and characters grow and change. The plot was not what I expected, this was edgy and raw around the edges, definitely not the smooth buildup to climax and then release that I expected. The characters were drawn clear enough that I felt an interest, a small attachment to them, but now that I'm done reading I find them easily forgotten. What I remember more clearly in this book is the ideas, that life is more than what you're willing to see, that everyone has their own reality and that it's our choices that guide us through it.
Synopsis: 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.
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