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The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender’s place as “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language” (San Francisco Chronicle).

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Aimee Bender's The Color Master.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780385533225
List price: $11.99
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I loved this book. Bender has a way of conveying the emotions of the characters in a way that feels subtle enough to be real and yet strong enough to make the feelings comprehensible. Too many times, when I read a sad book, it feels heavy handed. None of that comes across here, and perhaps others would disagree that it is a sad book, but for me I truly felt the longing, the isolation, and the sometimes depression of Rose Edelstein. Others criticize the book for its "magical" aspects, but at the end of the day, I felt like the book fulfilled one of the missions of magical realism for me, namely that the magic allowed me to understand the characters in a way that simple realism would not be able to (and, of course, none of this story would be possible without the magic).

Anyone who has ever felt different in a way that cannot be explained or who has felt isolated from the world at large will enjoy this book. If nothing else, Bender's prose is simple and yet gorgeous and easy to get lost in. The ending was somewhat heartbreaking for me personally, but completely in keeping with the rest of the book.

What I will take away from this book was the relationships between the family members. The emotional storm of Rose's mother and her love for Rose (but her selfishness as well for her own needs), her father's seeming quiet detachment from her and the rest of the family (but of course, a lot is going on there that you only find out about later), and especially her relationship with her brother. Every character felt full and complete (a rarity, it seems, in books these days) and I really have not enjoyed a book this much in quite a long time.more
Amazing Amazing Amazing. Bender's writing is so lovely and always leaves me wanting more. This novel is about finding what makes you "you" and learning to embrace it. It's about a nuclear family and the secrets everyone keeps from each other. It's about learning to love yourself and your family.more
The last book of 2012. Delicious!more
I have to say, I was not expecting so many poor reader reviews for this excellent second novel. Of all the contemporary writers I've read of this still-early century, Bender is at the top.

This novel grabs the reader immediately - not because of its (incidentally well-handled) magical element, but because of its very real, very recognizable human poignancy. Like her best short stories, Bender has captured the beauty and confusion of a singular person's life. I finished this book in three days, and even now occasionally feel an urge to go and pick it up. Rose is a character that I know will inhabit my mind for a long time.

Are there "flaws"? Of course - one can always find "flaws", because we in postmodernity have our established (read: rigid) ideas of what makes a story "good" or "bad", and we seem to take a sadistic joy in using these ideas as blunt weapons. The reason I love Bender's voice, here and in her splendid short stories, is that it's original, in a world where the idea of originality itself seems to have become cliche. She has a great blend of imagination, insight and capable craft. And she has no fear of pushing against the edges, juggling fantasies and realities, scraping at the depths of our fragile natures. These are the marks of a great artist. I think Aimee Bender will amaze us in the coming years, in a way we desperately need.more
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Reviews

I loved this book. Bender has a way of conveying the emotions of the characters in a way that feels subtle enough to be real and yet strong enough to make the feelings comprehensible. Too many times, when I read a sad book, it feels heavy handed. None of that comes across here, and perhaps others would disagree that it is a sad book, but for me I truly felt the longing, the isolation, and the sometimes depression of Rose Edelstein. Others criticize the book for its "magical" aspects, but at the end of the day, I felt like the book fulfilled one of the missions of magical realism for me, namely that the magic allowed me to understand the characters in a way that simple realism would not be able to (and, of course, none of this story would be possible without the magic).

Anyone who has ever felt different in a way that cannot be explained or who has felt isolated from the world at large will enjoy this book. If nothing else, Bender's prose is simple and yet gorgeous and easy to get lost in. The ending was somewhat heartbreaking for me personally, but completely in keeping with the rest of the book.

What I will take away from this book was the relationships between the family members. The emotional storm of Rose's mother and her love for Rose (but her selfishness as well for her own needs), her father's seeming quiet detachment from her and the rest of the family (but of course, a lot is going on there that you only find out about later), and especially her relationship with her brother. Every character felt full and complete (a rarity, it seems, in books these days) and I really have not enjoyed a book this much in quite a long time.more
Amazing Amazing Amazing. Bender's writing is so lovely and always leaves me wanting more. This novel is about finding what makes you "you" and learning to embrace it. It's about a nuclear family and the secrets everyone keeps from each other. It's about learning to love yourself and your family.more
The last book of 2012. Delicious!more
I have to say, I was not expecting so many poor reader reviews for this excellent second novel. Of all the contemporary writers I've read of this still-early century, Bender is at the top.

This novel grabs the reader immediately - not because of its (incidentally well-handled) magical element, but because of its very real, very recognizable human poignancy. Like her best short stories, Bender has captured the beauty and confusion of a singular person's life. I finished this book in three days, and even now occasionally feel an urge to go and pick it up. Rose is a character that I know will inhabit my mind for a long time.

Are there "flaws"? Of course - one can always find "flaws", because we in postmodernity have our established (read: rigid) ideas of what makes a story "good" or "bad", and we seem to take a sadistic joy in using these ideas as blunt weapons. The reason I love Bender's voice, here and in her splendid short stories, is that it's original, in a world where the idea of originality itself seems to have become cliche. She has a great blend of imagination, insight and capable craft. And she has no fear of pushing against the edges, juggling fantasies and realities, scraping at the depths of our fragile natures. These are the marks of a great artist. I think Aimee Bender will amaze us in the coming years, in a way we desperately need.more
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake sounded like a wonderous fairy tale set in modern times. I couldn't wait to read it and I rushed out to buy the hardcover. I finished this book last night and I still am not sure entirely how I feel about it. I wanted to love this book and give it 5 stars but I didn't love it, I only just liked it.

Rose Edelstein was 9 when she developed the ability to taste other people's emotions in the food they cooked. It was very difficult to taste the foods her mother made because she felt the sadness and emptiness her mother felt and Rose gained insight into her mother that no 9 year old should know. Rose's family also includes her brother who is a loner and her father who avoids hospitals as well as his family.

This is the first book or story by Ms. Bender that I've read and I'm interested in reading more. It will be interesting to see if magical realism isn't my thing or if just this story didn't grab me.more
Okay I didn't really like this. I thought the premise was really intriguing but it fell flat in the execution. I still have no idea what really went on with her bother either. Disappointing.more
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