THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE“High-concept” is the term screenwriters use to describe movies that take the “What if…?” approach.  As in, What if you could taste the feelings of the person who cooked your dinner?  That is the idea behind this 2010 novel (now out in paperback, which is when I tend to make my move): Rose, a young girl when the story begins, discovers this talent when her lemon birthday cake reveals that her mother feels empty and sad.  Which puts a bit of a damper on the celebration.

As if having this skill weren’t strange enough, Rose can also identify the sources of the food (including factories, organic farms, and even the states where the food was grown, raised, or produced).  This sounds pretty cool—and it is, if you’re the reader—but it’s also easy to see how eating meatloaf made by an angry or depressed person could be a drag and why you might prefer stale, factory-made Pringles.

As unusual as the narrator is, she is not even the oddest person in the book.  Her father cannot go into hospitals, for example, and her brother—well, you’re just going to have to read this to see how he behaves.  One thing I will say: this book led me to think about how our feelings and perceptions shape all of our experiences.

Aimee Bender seems to be carving out a niche for herself as a captivating American magical realist.  I look forward to reading more of her stuff….

About OnlyGoodBooks

Creator of The Literacy Cookbook (, I am an educational consultant who also happens to love to read incessantly. I found myself referring friends to so many books that it seemed like time to create a blog to record all of these recommendations. So here it is.
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