Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Book: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Author: Aimee Bender

The Dealio: This book starts out as- to me, at least- a YA version of Like Water For Chocolate (loved, loved, loved). Young Rose Edelstein, you see, is suddenly aware that she can taste emotions. Whether it is the touch of surly with overtones of bitter resentment in a bag of potato chips born in a co-op, or the lemon cake baked by her mom for her birthday (sadness, loss, frustration and loneliness), Rose is literally buffeted by the vagaries of what she eats. School becomes a particular trial for her. Lunches from home reek of her mother's despair and isolation. But the food proffered from the lunch line also begins to take on the threat of shark-infested waters. Here be dragons. And not the good kind. Her family clearly does not get what is going on with her: dad is busily providing food and shelter, but is distracted by everything else. Mom is climbing out of her skin, but recognises that something is wrong; she is just not sure what to do about it. Brother Joseph- the family genius- appears to literally float above and beyond the family unit, with increasingly brief and occasional pit stops to interact glancingly with family members.
This was a story into which I could not wait to leap with both feet. My interest continued for the first 3/4ths of the book. Then....what happened?!

The Grading Session: 3.97 pengies out of 5. Serious debit-age for the last quarter of the book. I have heard that the author explained this severe right turn in the midst of a lyrically mystical and involving tale to drag in inexplicable scenarios, never resolved- as 'a widely acknowledged psychological condition' as well as a way to 'allow the reader to reach his/her own conclusions.' Well, I will just have to disagree with you: this wondrously evocative tale was totally trashed by the ambiguous, bated-breath aspects of the end-segment. I believe that I deserved better return on my huge investment in this story, these characters and the possibilities which were smooshed flat by the 'wind-it-up-quickly' syndrome. Sigh. Such a shame.

Lessons Learned: Many maladies can be cured by learning to cook well. Also, apparently, many maladies-especially of the psychic type- can be expressed and soothed through cooking. Why, it is almost as if the very nature and inspiration (breath?) involved with creating food is...magic. But Amy? I bet you already knew that.

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