The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an odd one. Just before Rose’s ninth birthday, her mom does a “practice round” with the birthday cake. That’s when Rose discovers she can taste her mom’s unhappiness in the cake, which makes eating it unbearable. Unfortunately for Rose, the tasting of emotions doesn’t apply just to her mom’s cake; it’s every food and everyone. If it weren’t for highly processed packaged food, Rose would have difficulty keeping herself from starving. (There’s actually a funny scene where Rose has to give a presentation on something she values that her grandparents didn’t have and Rose picks Doritos.) She winds up in the hospital because of an over the top reaction to her mom’s food. As Rose gets older, she is better able to cope with her mysterious ability; she also discovers she’s not the only one in the family. From here, the book gets even stranger as her brother, Joseph, starts disappearing (like “poof” disappearing, not the typical teenage not saying where he’s going to be). While there wasn’t a satisfactory explanation for any of this, Aimee Bender is an excellent writer who crafted an intriguing plot. Aiding in my reading pleasure was that mixed in with the strangeness of the family was the simple tale of Rose growing up.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Doubleday.