This book was recommended to me by one of my coworkers at Random House. I had forgotten to bring a book, despite knowing that I would finish The Mad Scientist's Daughter that day and asked her to recommend a book for me to grab. She thought about it and then, discounting the answers to her preference questions, handed me The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. "It doesn't fit what you told me," she said, "but you have to read it."
I had heard of it before, of course. It had gotten great press when it had been published the year before and seemed to be everywhere for a few months. I hadn't been particularly interested at the time but if someone I trusted to have good taste was telling me I should read it, I would happily give it a go.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake tells the story of Rose, a young girl living with her father, mother and older brother in LA. Everything in her life seems to be going well until, on her ninth birthday, she takes a bite of the cake her mother baked for her and is hit with a sense of overwhelming despair. From then on, young Rose can taste the emotions of whoever made the food she eats. Sandwiches taste of anger. Cookies taste of longing. And now Rose can't escape secrets she never wanted to know about the people she loves.
The idea behind this book is very original and I really enjoyed Bender's writing style. It's a quick read, chapters short and kept interesting. Rose is very likable and watching a young girl trying to deal with such an adult problem is unique and heartbreaking.
I was a bit thrown off by the way the plot progresses. The book is divided into four sections and each section, though obviously by the same author, is very different from the others. At one point, two thirds of the way through the book, I had completely forgotten about Rose's ability because it hadn't been spoken of in so long. I still can't decide if I think that's a strength or a weakness of the narrative.
It definitely keeps the reader hooked, curious as to what exactly is going to happen to Rose and her family. Her brother, Joseph, overshadows a bit at times and there is an overlying mystery of what exactly is going on with him. I enjoyed Joseph's story but at the same time, felt that it took away a bit from Rose, things that I would have wanted to explore with her story. It was interesting but it was also a bit overpowering.
The book is very good, though. It keeps the reader turning pages with curiosity and interest. I very much enjoyed it and would recommend it.