A strangely moving book

2011-08-24 00:00

IMAGINE taking a bite of your lunch and ­instead of thinking “that tastes great”, you find yourself ­experiencing the emotions of the person who made it. That’s the premise which lies at the heart of Aimee ­Bender’s novel, The ­Particular Sadness of ­Lemon Cake.

The heroine of the tale is ­nine-year-old Rose Edelstein, who eats a slice of her mother’s lemon cake, and discovers that she is ­unhappy and dissatisfied with her life.

Soon every meal becomes a ­nightmare, as Rose is forced to ­experience other people’s emotions. And at home, things get worse when she discovers, through eating one of her mother’s home-cooked meals, that she’s having an affair.

The knowledge tears her world apart, and she finds solace in just two things — the ­emotionally ­empty vending machine at her school and George, her brother Joseph’s best friend, who helps her to understand her “gift”.

Later Rose ­discovers that strange abilities run in her family. Her brother ­uses his “gift” to merge with ­inanimate ­objects, and to escape from his family, and a world that he finds difficult to cope with, and her grandfather was able to smell pain on other people.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake isn’t exactly a light, fluffy read. Instead, Bender uses deeply layered characters and a complex form of magical realism to reveal a family of emotional cripples.

A slightly odd, and yet, strangely moving book.

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