The feelings in food

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
While I usually have about 7 books going at a time, occasionally one of them will overtake the others. This book did that. It was the one I most wanted to read of the bunch.
Rose, who is about 9 years old when this book begins and in her early 20s when it ends, narrates this story about her quirky family and her own peculiar gift for tasting the emotions of the person who prepared the food she eats. It’s kind of like mind-reading, and it ain’t a good thing. (She resorts to eating lots of processed food, in order to avoid the emotional hubbub.)
And her family. Oh, her family.
Her brother Joseph is a genius who appears to have Aspergers, and he clearly is their mother’s favorite.
Their mother flits from interest to interest, trying to find her niche. It appears she finally does find it in woodworking, but at the studio she also finds Larry, who becomes her (secret) lover (whose existence Rose ferrets out by tasting guilt/excitement in her mother’s cooking).
And their father is a lawyer who seems largely disengaged emotionally from his family.
When Rose is a teen and Joseph is off at college nearby, she discovers that he too has an unusual—and troubling—talent: he disappears. I’ll leave it at that.
While this book is its own wonderful self, several read-alikes hit me along the way. Here goes:
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (similar narrative voice)
Disobedience by Jane Hamilton (child knowing that the mother is having an affair)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (magical realism; the emotional power of food)
The best part of the book arrives at the end, when Rose has made a place for herself in this world.
Lovely book.

3 thoughts on “The feelings in food

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