Books Magazine

What Do You Taste?

By Crossstitchyourheart @TMNienaber

 The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


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Rose Edelstein comes from a family of mysterious gifts, she’s not quite sure which side of the family it comes from, but she has her suspicions.  Rose finds out about her gift on her ninth birthday when she takes a bite of her mother’s lemon chocolate cake and tastes something else…instead of lemon and eggs and flour and chocolate, Rose tastes her mother.  There is a symphony of disappointment and regret, forgotten ambitions, and a desire for something more.  From that day on Rose is scared to eat her mother’s food.  Pot roast is no longer the comfort food it once was and Rose is driven instead to manufactured treats, the kind made by machines, so the emotions of people can’t seep in.  While Rose is dealing with her own cursed gift her brother is going through some troubles of his own, and when he eventually disappears Rose realizes there’s something very, very wrong with her family.


This book doesn’t have the driving plot I thought it would.  There are times where it

actually starts to get a little slow.  If there is one thing I wanted from this book it was a more cohesive driving plot.  Between Rose trying to come to terms with her ability to sense emotions in food and the mysterious events with her brother, while unique and interesting twists, seem to keep the book from exploring either of these incidents as much as it could have individually.  That being said this is a minor fault in the book, one that really doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of it, just makes it feel a little cluttered.


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What Bender has created in this novel is not a whole new world, but a whole new side to the world we already know.  It is an age old saying that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors, but Bender has taken that saying an transformed it into a kind of modern-American-mystical realism.  Everyone has burdens they carry around with them silently, things that make us who we are but no one knows we have.  Rose just happens to have a burden more unique than most.  Bender takes this part of human nature and explores it beautifully through a protagonist that is struggling to find people who can understand and help her carry this particular baggage vs. her brother’s struggle to simple disappear from the world.


Bender’s prose is absolutely beautiful, told through the eyes of Rose as she grows up we see the world through a child, then a struggling young adult.  The older Rose gets and the more life experience she has Rose begins to realize her gift, her baggage, is something she can handle.  She just has to find a way to use it, and that sometimes people aren’t so lucky to be able to avoid their pain by choosing a different restaurant.

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