The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

A Novel

Bender, Aimee

Book - 2010
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse. On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents' attention, 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 cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother--her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother--tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden--her mother's life outside the home, her father's detachment, her brother's clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender's place as "a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language" ( San Francisco Chronicle ).

Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0385501129
Branch Call Number: FIC BENDER 2010
Characteristics: 292 p. ; 22 cm


From the critics

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Mar 07, 2015
  • GSPLAvery rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This was the kind of book that caught my interest right from the start. A really unique concept (tasting people's emotions through their food), and an interesting take on family dynamics. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one!

Jul 09, 2014
  • MsNavillus rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A strange and surprisingly moving novel built on an interesting concept.

Jul 09, 2014
  • sddepaul rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed the novel idea of this book and was caught up in the character of Rose right away and her development throughout. I never really clearly understood what was going on with her brother and found this subplot was a bit distracting...and this also kept the ending from being satisfying.

Jul 09, 2014

This book is really good!!!

Jul 09, 2014
  • islandsplash rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I liked the beginning especially the idea of tasting emotions in food. The plot did not hold my attention and was disappointed as the story evolved.

Apr 28, 2014
  • dprodrig rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Easy to read, but really weird. A brother who disappears into a chair, a father who abhors hospitals, and grandmother who is just as strange and a grandfather with odd abilities of his own. Just a meandering tale with no purpose, other than to entertain in a quircky way. Which sometimes isn't enough.

Mar 29, 2014
  • Cynthia_N rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book felt similar to A Wrinkle In Time. Smart brother who loves science, misfit sister, and a touch of fantasy. It works! I enjoyed the book and while the ending was not quite what I hoped, I liked that it was expected and unexpected!

Aug 10, 2013
  • jamilad rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Definitely depressing but it's one of those books it's hard to put down..

Aug 04, 2013
  • african_violet13 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

The book didn't end the way I wanted it to.

Jul 19, 2013

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: I loved the concept of this book. As I was reading it, I realized I had read it already and forgot the storyline. I enjoyed it (again).

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Jun 10, 2014
  • emkenny78 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

emkenny78 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 99

Jun 05, 2013
  • Sounddrive rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Sounddrive thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Feb 03, 2011
  • Crheneghan rated this: 3 stars out of 5.


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Feb 03, 2011
  • Crheneghan rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

Feb 03, 2011
  • Crheneghan rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

Feb 03, 2011
  • Crheneghan rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Violence: This title contains Violence.


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Jun 24, 2010
  • DanniOcean rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

When she turns nine, Rose Edelstein discovers she has a remarkable gift. In whatever she eats, she can taste the mood of whoever made the food. Unfortunately, what she tastes most often is despair, longing, hurt, or emptiness – so her gift is actually a curse. Only one person believes her, her brother’s brilliant best friend. One person ignores her, her nearly-brilliant brother. Her vibrant mother frets, her distant father placates. As Rose matures, so does her talent, until she can taste individual ingredients, tell where they came from, and even which farm or factory. But always there is the human element in the food that tastes of something sad, and always Rose must mask the nature of her gift by eating pre-packaged junk food. However, when her detached brother begins to disappear for days at a time, Rose begins to realize that she may not be the only person in her family with a peculiar talent, and that hers may not be the most painful. The story is told from Rose’s rather neurotic perspective, but the author uses the unusual convention of no quotation marks to indicate when a character is speaking, so the reader must pay closer attention to the narrative, pay closer attention to who is saying what. But as Rose discovers, being able to taste people’s moods is no more revealing the words they speak, and it certainly gives her no power to prevent or correct the sadness she senses in others. The central character of the first part of the novel is her mother, the climax of the novel involves her brother, but the mystery behind her own talent is solved from an entirely unexpected quarter. With this revelation Rose stops resenting both her gift and herself, and learns to appreciate the uniqueness of both. Funny, heartbreaking and mysterious, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a surreal tale comparable to The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman or The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.


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Jul 09, 2014

"If anyone had been crying for any reason, he'd pull out a tissue and pat down our cheeks and say salt was for meat, not faces" Rose - on her father

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