Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Rose Edelstein develops the ability to taste the emotion in food on the eve of her ninth birthday.  The first thing she realizes is that her mother is incredibly sad and empty.

I strongly disliked this.  If I hadn't been listening to it on audio, I wouldn't have finished it.  The audio itself I wasn't that great.  It was read by Aimee Bender herself, and she had a very flat and uninspiring reading voice.  Rather like the book itself, which I'm sure was intentional.

I do not like books that aren't about anything.  Or rather, are about "life."  I just don't care.  I don't want to read about someone's day-to-day life, for the same reason I rarely use my Twitter account and hardly ever update my Facebook status.  I want to read a story with a point and a plot.  I don't want to read someone's kind of pointless inner musings.  I know some people like books like that a lot.  I know books like that are often highly praised and thought of as "literary."  To that I say "whatever."  You can keep your literary.  It doesn't change that fact your book wasn't about anything.


Rose discovers she can taste emotions in food.  OK.  Got it.  So now what?  I was waiting for something to happen.  Something connected to her ability to taste emotions in food.  But nothing ever did.  Ever.  In fact, the story shifts to her brother, Joseph, who also has a strange ability.  He has the ability to turn into inanimate objects.  Or...go inside them.  I don't even know, it was never made clear.  And it was never explored why Joseph would chose oblivion over his life.  What was the point of him at all?  Some many things were introduced in this story and then nothing happens.

Meanwhile, Rose's mother begins an affair that starts when Rose is 12 and is still going on when she's 20 something, and no one knows except Rose, because she tasted it in food.  Rose father is just sort of there, not doing much until the end of the book when he reveals that his father had the ability to smell people's feelings, or something, and that the reason he's never gone in a hospital (Rose's father won't go in hospitals) is because he feels a pull toward them and doesn't want to know what would happen if he went inside.

Nothing.  Day to day life.  Rose musing on whatever.  It just dragged on and on and I kept wondering where it would end.  What more could be talked about?  There clearly wasn't going to be a point to the story.  It could end anywhere.

And then, it went and ended when an actual story seemed to have started.  Rose decides to stop hiding from food and starts eating at restaurants.  She finds a place where the food and the emotions are good, and she works there.  She also meets a woman who works with at risk kids, and asks Rose to taste the cookies the kids make to see how they are and if they need help.  Two actual stories!  Will Rose come in to her own by becoming a cook or chef?  Will she help others with her strange ability?  We'll never know, because no sooner then did those actual story points appear, the book ended.

What the hell?  If it had started there rather than ended, it could have been an interesting.  Also if there was any exploration of Rose and her family member's abilities.  As it was, I thought it was sloppy, poorly thought out fantasy. 

I'll give this book one thing.  It has an excellent cover.  The cake looks so good.  Every time I see it I feel hungry.  I want that piece of cake.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more with everything you said. Just said many of the same things myself in my review. This was a disappointment.


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