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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Paperback – April 19, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Taking her very personal brand of pessimistic magical realism to new heights (or depths), Bender's second novel (following An Invisible Sign of My Own) careens splendidly through an obstacle course of pathological, fantastical neuroses. Bender's narrator is young, needy Rose Edelstein, who can literally taste the emotions of whoever prepares her food, giving her unwanted insight into other people's secret emotional lives—including her mother's, whose lemon cake betrays a deep dissatisfaction. Rose's father and brother also possess odd gifts, the implications of which Bender explores with a loving and detailed eye while following Rose from third grade through adulthood. Bender has been called a fabulist, but emerges as more a spelunker of the human soul; carefully burrowing through her characters' layered disorders and abilities, Bender plumbs an emotionally crippled family with power and authenticity. Though Rose's gift can seem superfluous at times, and Bender's gustative insights don't have the sensual potency readers might crave, this coming-of-age story makes a bittersweet dish, brimming with a zesty, beguiling talent. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Surprisingly, only a couple of critics mentioned that The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a derivative of Like Water for Chocolate, though Bender reverses Laura Esquivel's premise. But even those who noted the similarity praised Bender's original take on love, sorrow, and relationships and her surreal, sumptuous writing, particularly in her descriptions of food (only one critic faulted some awkward prose). Still, the novel garnered mixed reviews. Some critics disliked Rose's brother's characterization and the novel's lack of emotional tension, despite its plot. And many felt that the second half of the novel lacked direction and failed to take the fairy-tale elements to a deeper level. Readers willing to suspend their disbelief, however, will find much to enjoy here. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I give the novel a 3.5. It's easy to read and holds your interest, but doesn't explore any great ideas or give much food (ha!) for thought. The writing is barely adequate, and the sentence fragments are irritating. However, if you enjoy magical realism, you would enjoy this book.
As you go through the book, you learn more and more about what the main character, Rose is like and how she feels. She has some really deep moments that take your breath away. I feel excited by how an author can developer character so well and really explain what it would be like to be them. I find that Rose is a very dynamic protagonist and she learns a lot about life as the story goes on.
I have loved this book so much and I will recommend it to friends and family for years to come. I would definitely recommend this book to people looking for a heartfelt, amazingly built and executed, and wholesome novel with romance, tons of character development, and super main theme.
I think that's my favorite aspect of this book - the emotional effects that Bender's writing produced. Much like Rose discovers that she can use the medium of taste to feel emotions in a strange, unresolved way, Bender's language and imagery accomplished this same transaction through the medium of words. I think my favorite moment of the novel was Rose's discovery of her brother Joseph, sitting in his apartment, quiet, alone, in the midst of a literal disappearing act - the leg of a chair strangely substituted for his own leg. I felt something funny in my stomach that must have been akin to what Rose felt, seeing a chair leg sitting inside of her brother's shoe - uneasiness, fear, confusion, a sense of something very wrong unfolding, but more than anything else, pure captivation.
The novel also serves as a sort of coming-of-age story, following Rose from the day she first discovers her ability throughout the remainder of her education, and into her post-academic life. These parts of the story are remarkably human, in the context of the oddities that Bender litters throughout the text: Rose struggles to understand why her parents' marriage is disintegrating, she navigates her way through friendships that begin to fail as high school comes to an end, she tries to manage a long-standing crush on her brother's best friend but ends up fooling around with a jock who means nothing to her instead. And Bender also gives the reader a sense of family history, which gives even greater depth to the world of the novel.
Lemon Cake is a great piece of magical realism, as is the collection of Bender's short stories which I've also read, Willful Creatures. It's certainly not for everyone, and Bender's refusal to answer what are perhaps the most captivating questions she raises - the questions of magical realism - will leave some readers frustrated and unsatisfied. But if you feel like taking a trip into a bizarre story world for a little while, and if you can accept from the outset that, like a dream, the pieces aren't always going to fit together or be properly explained to you, then I definitely recommend The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.