The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake follows the life of Rose Edelstein as she discovers, & navigates, her newfound ability to taste people’s emotions through the food they make.
On her ninth birthday, Rose discovers that she can taste her mother’s emotions in the birthday cake she made for her. There is a hollowness there that her young brain cannot emotionally comprehend and later, she finds that secrets don’t stay hidden for long when you can taste them.
This book was particularly hard to read for me. Not because it was bad or that I didn’t want to read it; quite the opposite actually. Once I picked it up, I could hardly put it down. The book was hard to read because of all the raw emotion written in to the pages. What the characters experienced in each chapter wasn’t some heart wrenching, dramatic affectation of sorrow- the kind that has you spontaneously sobbing over the pages of the book. No, this was an ever-present ache in your chest, feels like you can’t breath type of sadness. And that’s what made it so hard to read. Because it was too real. The raw, poignant emotion that Bender was able to suffuse in to this one work is incredible and I have to honestly say, I don’t think a book has ever made me feel this way.
There are moments in the book when something huge happens but you don’t realize it. All there is, is this feeling of sadness after the moment passes but you don’t know why it made you sad. It isn’t until later in the chapter or some chapters after that you realize something devastatingly important occurred. The end of Part Two is one such moment & to me, it’s one of the biggest turns in the book.
For some readers, this may be a hard book to follow because Bender never outright writes what is happening. You have to follow the nuances & really analyze the language of the book along with the emotions/reactions of the characters. To add, some people may not like the “strangeness” of the story line. There are some odd moments in The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake but, that is what makes this book so unique. There is a deep message behind all of the oddness & you just have to open your mind to understanding what the author is showing us. Ultimately, this book is about love, the struggle to connect with one another, & family. And more than likely, you’ll never look at lemon cake the same way ever again.