Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender

I have such mixed feelings for this book. I really cannot decide wether I liked it or not.


I found it engrossing and frustrating. I think at the end of the day the story is trying to portray our ability to love those who are flawed.

Rose can taste these flaws, which those around her keep hidden from the world, through the food they prepare. Weird idea, right? I call them flaws, what she can really taste is people's true emotions, those emotions which they don't always choose to share. She tastes her mother's unhappiness for example and discovers her affair. Rose finds it very difficult to cope with her "gift" and struggles to achieve her hopes and dreams for the future as she becomes consumed with the burden of knowing the truth about the feelings of others. She is forced to feel all the pain and sadness in the world, unable to take anyone at face value.


The title is fitting, in my opinion, as I found the whole thing terrifically sad. I feel for Rose, carrying the whole world's troubles on her shoulders, for as her gift develops she not only can feel the emotions and feelings of those who prepared the food, but those who grew, manufactured and packaged it too. I image this would be hugely overwhelming.


I felt the whole book was a huge depressing spiral, weaving it's way down into a giant black hole of nothing. Ending with Rose's brother Joseph becoming a chair .... Yes, a chair! He also has a gift. He has a gift to become inanimate objects which he uses as a means of escaping the world, which he finds hard to deal with due to his complete lack of social skills. Joseph really is a very unlikeable character. He is very selfish. He has love showered upon him by his mother which he shuns, instead preferring to become a wardrobe or a table or whatever to keep him from facing reality. Truly bizarre.


I just found the fact that nothing good came of any of these gifts a real downer. Several other of Rose's family members had abilities and no-one used them for anything other than a road to depression. In the end Rose finds some salvation by working as a taster in a French restaurant but this was really a cop out in my opinion. Nobody finds anything positive about what they are able to do. It seems to me that the message to take away from this story is that if life hands you lemons, just suck on them until everything around you seems bitter and desolate.