Friday, March 29, 2013

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Fiction Friday

When I recommended this book by Aimee Bender to a friend recently, they commented that I often read books with strange titles. There may be an element of truth in that, because I guess I am drawn to things that seem a little quirky from the outside.  This book definitely fits into that category because I confess I read it exactly because of it's title.  A sad lemon cake?  That book's for me.  I can tell you now, it was wonderful.  The cake may have been sad, but as a reader I was happy, happy, happy.

On her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's lemon chocolate cake and it doesn't taste good.  In fact, it tastes bad; it tastes of the emotions of her mother as she beat and whipped the cake up. Bad feelings of "absence, hunger, spiralling, hollows". In that one slice of cake, Rose can taste her mother's despair and anger and from that point on, food becomes a channel of unwanted communication. Rose's 'gift' enables her to discern the emotions behind most foods, especially baked goods.  She is forced to witness her family's emotions that they believe hidden from her.  As Rose's 'food psychic' abilities grow she discerns her mother's affair, heralded by an adultery-tasting roast beef.  In the meantime her brother Joseph begins to retreat from the world and in a strange twist of plot, he disappears. Reminiscent of The Time Traveler's Wife it seems that geeky Joseph has developed a way to literally disappear into the furniture and for a time he comes and goes, before disappearing completely.  In the cold light of day I'm not sure how this particular sub-plot doesn't stand out more, but somehow it works. 
I've always thought that food made with love, cherishes and nourishes and that food made in anger, lies uneasily on the palate.  This book made it a reality for me and I chomped down every delicious word.

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