Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is Incredibly Unusual
On Rose's ninth birthday, she suddenly has a supernatural gift thrust upon her. It's a gift she has no words to explain and she has no one to explain them to. Everyone around her things she is losing her mind.
When I got my Nook, I stopped reading the books I had in the box on the floor in my bedroom. My arthritis prevented me from holding them open without pain.
One day I decided it was time to read some of them or pass them along. The box was annoying me. An unread book is a sad thing indeed. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake had been nagging me to read it for quite some time.
How could I resist a title like that?
So, This is the Plot
The gist of the story is a young girl named Rose, perfectly normal for her age, sets out to celebrated her 9th birthday. Her mother makes her a lemon cake in celebration. She takes one bite of that cake and finds that she can sense her mother's emotions within each bite. This discovery shatters her existence. From that day forward, there are emotions in every bite from the cook, the field hand, and anyone else who was instrumental in the preparation of the food that she eats.
This gift is a nightmare. Emotions from loved ones and strangers overwhelm her. She tries to explain what is happening, but each person she tells believes she is making it up or mentally disturbed. Because no one understands, she must endure it alone. She eats less and less as she tries to escape the unwanted emotions. She finds some food she can eat, but it is very little. She longs for the day for when food was just food.
The girl's gift is only part of the story. Her parents are going through their own problems. And, while Rose is drifting over the edge, her mother overlooks her to tend to her brother, Joseph. There is no room for Rose's problems in this mix. Joseph comes with a whole load of problems all his own. While incredibly intelligent, he is unsociable to an extreme and seems to disappear for long periods of time without explanation.
The only character who gives any sense of normalcy to this story is George, the brother's best friend. George sees Rose as a bit of a novelty and tries to makes sense of what she experiences.
What would you do if you found yourself with a gift like the main character of this novel?
An Unbearable Gift
Whenever we look at Super Hero, we always think it would be really cool to have those talents. But, with each super skill some burdens and responsibilities. In Rose's case, she suddenly knows everyone's emotions, including the people closest to her.
I used to think this was a great idea. Invisibility could come in handy, don't you think? Then again, you'd see things you should see and you can never erase a memory. Rose's gift is even more troublesome. I don't think I would want to know what was going on inside people's emotions.
How would you react if you were in Rose's shoes? Would the ability to taste the emotions of the person who prepared your meal be a blessing or a curse?
An Unsettled Impression
For the first few chapters, I wasn't really sure that I liked it at all. While it is beautifully written, the story is uncomfortable and disturbing. We watch Rose go from a typical child to one on the verge of mental breakdown. She is falling apart before our eyes. I find myself wanting to run away from Rose, pack her away, and never look back.
Part of the problem with the first half of the book is it seems fragmented because there are so many unanswered questions. Why can't anyone see that Rose is not mentally ill or making things up? Why is her brother so rude and where does he go to when no one can find him? Why do they cling to the odd things that their grandmother sends them? Why is her father so remote and her mother overly obsessed with her brother?
The second half of the story puts all the puzzle pieces together. We realize there are reasons for everything. By the end of the tale, I have come to understand Rose and I have sympathy for her family including her brother whose situation turns out to be the saddest of them all. Bender has crafted a really strange story, but by the last page, you feel as if it makes logical sense. You can't help but place yourself in Rose's shoes. Would you embrace this gift or would it torment you just as it does Rose?
How Would You Describe the Events in This Novel?
A video summary of the book describing what happens to Rose in those moments on her birthday when she takes a bite of her mother's lemon cake
In the End, I Loved It
This is one of those books that I appreciate more when I've gotten to the end. Not because it's over, but because it's in the second half where certain things become clear. I consider it one of the most unusual, fascinating books that I've read in a long time. I encourage readers to give it a chance. You may be put off at the beginning when the story only seems peculiar. It's well worth sticking with it.
I would recommend this story to people who like books that are out of the ordinary. If you enjoy unusual plots with quirky characters and a touch of the supernatural, this is the right book for you.