The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

Imagine being able to taste feelings in your food.

That is exactly what Rose Edelstein, not quite age nine, discovers she can do. It is a disconcerting superpower. Most of the feelings she tastes are awful; her mother is not a happy woman.

This novel follows Rose from the discovery of her ability until her early adult years. It turns out she isn’t the only one in the family hiding a strange talent. One of the things Bender does well is making the bizarre believable, and she does that here. Rose’s “gift” makes sense, the impact of it on her life is what we all go through, because no one gets the perfect family from central casting. The exaggeration comes from the spark, not in its impact.

I’m a big fan of Bender’s writing. I like her short stories best (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Willful Creatures, and THe Third Elevator), though did enjoy her first novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own. I suppose it’s a hazard of some kind, liking a writer’s short stories best, because there seems to be so much pressure on them to produce novels.

This is a good novel, as a fan I had looked forward to reading it and wasn’t disappointed. Still, I do hope for a story collection — or another Madras Press title — again soon.

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