Baxlala’s #CBR4 Review #16: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
I am still trying to figure out how I feel about The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It turned into a much different story than I was expecting, which is weird because I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE ANY EXPECTATIONS going into it. All I knew was that there was a little girl named Rose who, one day, started tasting feelings in food.
Rose Edelstein is granted this power when she turns 9. It first presents itself when she tastes the lemon cake her mother baked her for her birthday. The cake tastes like sadness and desperation and makes Rose really, really uncomfortable because she realizes her mother isn’t happy at all.
I love the way the power was presented. I’m sure most of us would agree that any superpower (because that’s what it is) would be a welcome addition to our mundane lives, but Rose cannot eat a meal without being bombarded with FEELINGS. And as we all know, feelings are the worst. She can’t ignore them and she can’t just NOT eat (not without something inconvenient like death happening), so they just build and build until she can’t take it anymore and she has a total freakout. It’s kind of like that episode of Buffy where she can read minds, and at first it’s all great because she thinks she can snoop and find out what her BF really thinks of her (BUMMER, though, that you can’t read a vampire’s mind) but eventually more and more voices get crammed into her head and she’s totally overwhelmed by it. So, like, if voices were food-feelings, then this is totally the same thing.
Anyway. It took me a bit to get used to Bender’s writing style, namely the not using quotation marks. It made it a bit confusing at times to figure out which specific character was talking but it didn’t make the book unreadable or anything. I mean, I do wonder why that particular stylistic choice was made. I’m sure there was some logic to it but for the life of me I couldn’t understand what it was. And, you know, this is exactly the kind of thing Google but I am lazy so someone just tell me, OK?
At a certain point, this book got weird. Weirder than the whole tasting-feelings-through-food thing even. But at the same time, it wasn’t weird enough? If that makes sense? Like, if you’re going to go there, then GO THERE. Be all the way weird. I admit, though, that doing so would have made it a different novel. I think the point was to keep it real(ish), to ground the weird in the real, but to me, none of the characters reacted to the weird stuff in a realistic way, which would have been “WHAT IN THE FUCKING FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?” But again. That’s just me.
My review has been sitting as a draft for a week or so. I thought I’d posted it and forgotten about it, because the book kind of fell out of my head after I finished it. It’s not that I hated it, it just didn’t stick with me, not the way I wanted it to. Still, I plan on checking out some of Aimee Bender’s other novels, so I suppose that says something.