Because who doesn’t need a little C&C Music Factory on a Thursday??
Sometimes a book isn’t good or bad. Sometimes a book makes you go “hmmm” and think long and hard about what exactly you’ve just read. Though it can be frustrating to not feel completely sure about a book, I think there’s value in that, as in anything else.
This is one strange little book.
Rose is about to turn 9 when her mother bakes her favorite cake: lemon with chocolate frosting. Except the cake doesn’t taste like lemon or chocolate. It tastes like despair.
The Edelstein family is not all that strange up close. They are disconnected, surely. They are uncommunicative, certainly. But as Rose’s peculiar taste lingers, she learns more about each of them than she could ever possibly want, and that knowledge pushes her beyond them and separate from others as she reaches adolescence and grows into an adult.
Even then, she is unable to reconcile what she tastes with the people she knows and loves. Her brother is silent and withdrawn, working on a physics experiment and disappearing at times. Her mother, obsessed with Joseph’s well being, doesn’t see how much her daughter needs her, and Rose’s father tries but ultimately fails at bridging the gaps left in this odd family.
Originally, I thought this book would be very similar to Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which I think is a bit of poetic genius at times. In that book, however, the main character’s emotions are cooked into the food she creates, thus affecting everyone who tastes it.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is quite opposite, and while I think the premise is really, really fascinating, the book sort of left me. The book I wanted to read was about Rose having this affliction, coming to terms with it in her own way, and either realizing she must do the same with her family or attempt to change her life. The book I read became more and more odd and muddled when Rose’s brother is not just disappearing from his apartment but apparently from the universe as well. Though there are hints to this effect as you read, the scenes where it is realized are creepy and really out there. While Rose’s odd taste certainly requires a temporary suspension of disbelief, Joseph’s skill is scientific. The two are at odds, so while I was cognizant of accepting one, I really couldn’t accept the other.
Bender is an incredibly talented writer, but I have to wonder if I just missed something or if the book really did end that much out in left field.
So this book made me go hmm, but not in an altogether bad way. The more I read, though, the more I wish there were elements of books that were left out or changed to make an odd book a truly great one.
Have you read this one? Or do you have any books that make you go hmmm?