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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Cover

ISBN13: 9780385720960
ISBN10: 0385720963
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

“Moving, fanciful, and gorgeously strange.” —People

“One of the year’s highlights. Intense and compelling.” —The Oregonian

“Marvelous. . . . Few writers are as adept as Bender at mingling magical elements so seamlessly with the ordinary.” —San Francisco Chronicle

 

“A richly imagined, bittersweet tale.” —Vanity Fair

 

“Convincing and elegant. . . . A novel with a deeply involving plot, one full of provocative ideas.” —The Boston Globe

 

“Extraordinary. . . . Not just a deeply felt novel but one of the most inventive pieces of food writing in recent memory.” —Time Out New York 

“Profound and eye-opening. . . . You feel—that rare and beautiful gift from a truly great book—woken up and unalone.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Rose is an irresistible narrator: warm, witty and sharply observant. . . . Exuberant, life-affirming.” —The Miami Herald

“Oddly beautiful. . . . Will tempt you to see what talented writers can do when they rip little tears in the fabric of reality.” —The Washington Post

 

“The fairy-tale elements in her writing, far from seeming outlandish, highlight the everyday nature of her characters’ flaws and struggles. In Ms. Bender’s stories and novels, relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities.” —The Wall Street Journal

 

“Charming and wistful. . . .  [Rose] studies her world with the thoroughness of a scientist but records her observations with the eye and ear of a poet.” —The Atlantic

 

“The fabulist elements of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake are stunning, but what makes this novel a keeper is the sheer beauty of the language Bender uses to describe love.”  —NPR, “Books We Like”

 

“[The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake] has the narrative momentum and clockwork plotting of any good mystery, but its bleak whimsy and clear-eyed rendering of domestic sorrow are Bender’s own. . . .  Splendid.” —The Plain Dealer

 

Rose comes of age while unraveling family secrets as strangely lucid as they are nightmarish. At its core . . . The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake encourages us all to make the most of our unique gifts while still finding a way to live in the so-called real world.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

 

“A dreamy novel. . . . This is one of the most pleasant books we’ve read all year.” —The New York Observer 

 “Deftly written. . . . There is a . . . sweetness to the book that turns it into something out of the ordinary.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Bender is the master of quiet hysteria. . . . She builds pressure sentence by sentence. . . . A little hiss of steam comes off the novel.” —Los Angeles Times

“A very special book.” —The Anniston Star

 

“Bender doesn’t write of ordinary people. She writes of magical creations, the things of fairy tales gone awry. . . . Part magic, part clean prose.” —Denver Post

 

“If you’ve ever wondered why people have such a hard time looking in strangers’ eyes as they walk down the street, this book, hard as it may be to face, is for you.” —LA Weekly

 

“There’s an evocative power in Bender’s work that lingers with a reader.” —The Christian Science Monitor

 

“[Bender] produce[s] stories that make one grateful for being ordinary.” —The Seattle Times

 

“[A] gentle, kindhearted novel. There’s a wistful quality to the almost fable-like tale that’s captured with near perfection in her understated prose. As in all fine novels, the Edelsteins’ story, in Aimee Bender’s telling, is one that reflects our own world back to us in a fresh and revealing way.” —Bookreporter.com

 

“The ultimate fact is that The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is probably the strangest book you’ll never want to put down.” —Pittsburgh Tribune

 

“Aimee Bender creates a lilting, economical and finally tragic portrait of what it means to be a child in her exquisite new novel.” —Chicago Tribune

 

Lemon Cake perfectly embodies Bender’s knack for simultaneously appealing to imagination, emotion, and intellect, combining an out-of-this-world premise with very much in-this-world characters.” —Portland Mercury

 

“Aimee Bender is also something of a sorceress who charges her stories with pure magic, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an example of what she does best.” —Jewish Journal

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 14 comments:

Cami , May 22, 2014 (view all comments by Cami )
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is such a delightful read...I actually went out and bought more of Aimee Bender's books right away so I didn't have to stop. The writing is great, but the ideas and the possibilities she creates for her characters are even better. Her characters' choices are mind-bending and super fun to read at the same time. Excellent summer reading.
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Rosalind Reading, April 20, 2013 (view all comments by Rosalind Reading)
When Rose Edelstein bites into the lemon-chocolate cake her mother baked for her ninth birthday, Rose discovers she has a remarkable gift (or perhaps curse): she can taste the feelings of those who cooked her food. And her mother's cake tastes of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Rose must learn to navigate a world in which she can consume other's secret selves, whether she wants to or not. Rose grows out of her odd and secluded childhood and wrestles with adulthood, with how to deal with her insight into the emotions of those she loves, and with the things she must discover about her family without the help of lemon cake. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake weaves a tale that is bittersweet as the cake itself, and is full of just the right balance of magic realism and truth about the reality difficulty of coping with life, love, and learning to understand others.
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emmejo, February 8, 2013 (view all comments by emmejo)
When she is 9 years old, Rose eats a piece of her mother's cake and realizes she can taste her mother's feelings when she cooked. It changes Rose's life. Everything she eats tastes like the person who made it, intensely, horrifyingly. She struggles to figure out how to survive and eat food. She tries to focus on other things she can discover from her food, like where it came from and how the ingredients were grown. It also forces her to think differently about the people she is around once she knows their true emotions.

I found this book mediocre. The idea was interesting, but the execution was wobbly. I found Rose uninteresting, uncreative and inflexible. I really couldn't care less how hard a time she whined about having. The supporting characters were a bit better, but fit too neatly and simply into their planned roles, without the diversity or complexity real people have.

The writing is solid and well-paced, making for a quick read.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385720960
Author:
Bender, Aimee
Publisher:
Anchor
Subject:
Literary
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110419
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
28 x 13 x 4 in 11.26 lb

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Used Trade Paper
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$10.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Anchor Books - English 9780385720960 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Flannery O'Connor was famously supposed to have remarked that anyone who made it through childhood should have enough material to write about forever. Yet the list of contemporary American novelists who have written persuasively about children is, to my mind, surprisingly short. Alice Hoffman belongs on it and so do Alice McDermott, Joyce Carol Oates and the unfortunately overlooked Lewis Nordan. If we go back a bit, so does William Maxwell. After reading Aimee Bender's new novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, I would nominate her for inclusion on the list as well.

When the novel begins, Rose Edelstein is about to turn 9. Her mother decides to bake her a lemon-chocolate cake. When Rose bites into it, she discovers the most peculiar thing: She can taste the emotions of her mother, and while the cake itself is wonderful, her mother's emotions are anything but. The 'gift' quickly becomes a burden or — here, for once, I would not quibble with a publisher's jacket copy — 'a curse.' Rose begins to learn things about her mother, her father and her brother that most of us are blissfully unaware of. The novel, which covers a number of years, is a chronicle of her attempts to come to terms with what she knows." Steve Yarbrough, The Oregonian (read the entire Oregonian review)
"Review" by , "Charming and wistful....[Bender] harness[es] her exquisite, bizarre sensitivity, in this haunting examination."
"Review" by , "Bender deconstructs one of our most pleasurable activities, eating, and gives it a whole new flavor. She smooths out the lumps and grittiness of life to reveal its zest. Highly recommended for readers with sophisticated palates."
"Review" by , "[M]y guess is that this novel will be one of the year's highlights. Intense and compelling, it explores familial love in an unusually idiosyncratic but nonetheless convincing manner, and I find that I'm still thinking about Rose days after finishing the book."
"Review" by , "Haunting....Bender's prose delivers electric shocks....rendering the world in fresh, unexpected jolts. Moving, fanciful and gorgeously strange."
"Review" by , "[A] wacky stew of alienation and contradiction....unraveling family secrets as strangely lucid as they are nightmarish. At its core, Aimee Bender's novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake encourages us all to make the most of our unique gifts while still finding a way to live in the so-called real world."
"Synopsis" by , The wondrous Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale — heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad.
"Synopsis" by , On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein 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 slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she’s  privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern.
"Synopsis" by , 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).

From the Hardcover edition.

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