Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

I'd been seeing The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender everywhere and had been dying to read it.   When Judy and DoubleDay offered the chance to review it and to sponsor a giveaway, I jumped at the chance.   DoubleDay is generously sponsoring a giveaway of 2 copies -- read more about it below!

I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, so I just unwrapped it and took a bite.  It was a homemade ham-and-cheese-and-mustard sandwich, on white bread, with a thin piece of lettuce in the middle.  Not bad, in the food part. Good ham, flat mustard from a functional bakery.  Ordinary bread.  Tired lettuce-pickers.  But in the sandwich as a whole, I tasted a kind of yelling, almost.  Like the sandwich itself was yelling at me, yelling love me, love me, really loud. - The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel
The blurb:
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 emotion in the slice.

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.  Anything can be revealed at any meal.  She can't eat her brother Joseph's toast, a cookie at the local bakery is laced with rage; grape jelly is packed with acidic resentment.

Rose's gift forces her to confront the secret knowledge all families keep hidden -- truths about her mother's life outside the home, her father's strange detachment, Joseph's clash with the world.

Yet as Rose grows up, she realizes there are some secrets that even her taste buds can't discern.

While the idea behind the book is intriguing, it is the execution that really drew me in.  The book is told from Rose's point of view and the story begins when Rose is 9 years old.  She tells us the comfort that she gets when she returns home from school and finds her mother in the kitchen.  Her mother bakes as special treat while Rose does her homework -- and Rose's sense of well being is palpable.

It's clear that Rose is warm and affectionate and that her genius older brother considers her to be a pest.  But as we read on, Joseph's coldness seems stronger than the usual disdain of an elder sibling.  And no one sees how this affects Rose.  Joseph is a genius and is allowed these quirks.  Even as their mother showers Rose with affection, it is clear that her focus and affection center around her older child. Not that Rose complains, she takes it as given and carries on.  It's Rose's voice -- full of understanding, humor and hope -- that pulls you into the book.

I worried about Rose as she struggled with the feelings and information that would come with each bite of food.  And admired the way that Rose coped. On the one hand,  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake  is a story about family, love, friendship and about finding your place in the world.  More than anything, it is fun, touching and hard-to-put down!

ISBN-10: 0385501129 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (June 1, 2010), 304 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Aimee Bender is the author of the novel  An Invisible Sign of My Own and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures.  Her work has been widely anthologized and has been translated into ten languages.  She lives in Los Angeles.
To enter, please list two books that you read and enjoyed lately.  Tell us the title, author and a short description of the book. 

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
3. One entry per person and only one winner per household.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on August 23, 2010.


  1. This book sounds so interesting and like nothing I have read before! Would love to win a copy! Two books I have recently read and really enjoyed are:
    1. Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. It is the story of a woman who's husband confesses to having an affair and how she goes on to digest and work through this information and ultimate betrayal.
    2. the one that i want by Allison Winn Scotch. This is the story of a woman who believes she has the perfect life. She visits an old friend/new psychic who "gifts" her with the gift of clarity. From then on she begins having visions of the future that do not fit in to the live she has worked so hard for and,when the visions start coming true, she begins to realize that life isn't always what it appears to be and that she must adapt to how her life really is.

  2. I am a follower. I loved all the Twilight books by Stephenie Myers. I couldn't put the books down. I also like the Host by Stephenie Meyers. Please enter me in contest. I really want to read this book.

  3. I just finished The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. It's an unlikely love story that keeps you glued to the book. I real page turner about 2 people who meet while waiting for a flight and wind up stranded in the wilderness. It's fabulous.

    I'm almost finished with They're watching by Gregg Hurwitz. It's a fast paced suspense thriller. It's got all kinds of twists and turns and takes you on a ride with the protagonist.

    I'm a follower, and my fingers are crossed for this book.


  4. Please count me in. Thanks for the giveaway.
    1. I really enjoyed Shiver by Maggie Steifvater. It is a beautifully told story of a girl falling in love with a boy who is a werewolf during the winter.
    2. I also enjoyed the sequal to Shiver called Linger. The love story of Sam and Grace continues.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  5. I forgot to mention that I am a follower.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  6. Let's see: The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by McNeil, Gil about a young wife starting over (husband dies) with 2 rowdy boys at the beach in England and takes over her gran's yarn shop.

    And Embrace the night by Chance, Karen. Fantastic series starring Cassandra Palmer with vamps, weres, clairvoyant, etc.

    I am a follower. Thanks for the contest entry:

  7. Ohhh. I want to win this sounds sooo fun!

    My email is:

    My two favorite books lately are:
    Water for Elephants by Sara Guerin (and I'm currently working on the movie in Chattanooga)
    The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry.

  8. Two of my recent favorite books are:
    Days of Grace by Catherine Hall (F) - WWII England and the London evacuation of children to countryside families. We meet Grace Rivers and Nora Lynch (evacuee). From my review:
    "...Catherine Hall immaculately weaves the evocative narratives of Nora’s ostensibly carefree and guileless countryside life with beautiful, charming Grace and her presumably conventional parents, Vicar and Mrs. Rivers. As secrets unfold, Nora and Grace clandestinely embark upon a haunting and gripping sequence of events in London, which culminate, in a perilous journey from innocence to guilt that will tragically consume Nora until her final days..."

    The second is a favorite because I learned so much from it: The Eyes of Willie McGee... by Alex Heard (NF)
    From my review:
    "THE EYES OF WILLIE McGEE: A TRAGEDY OF RACE, SEX, AND SECRETS IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH by Alex Heard presents more questions than answers. Yet, in so doing, it is an outrageously honest and well-documented vehicle to enlighten those unaware of how one extraordinary judicial argument unknowingly provided the ballast for the Civil Rights movement in our country."

    I am an e-mail follower.

  9. Ooops. My email address is:

    cyeates AT nycap DOT rr DOT com

  10. I so want to read the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

    I have read Crazy For The Storm - A Memoir Of Survival by Norman Ollestad. It is set in the surf culture of Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970s and recalls Ollestad's childhood and his dad whose determination and love both infuriated and inspired him. It describes in detail how Norman escapes from a plane crash in the San Gabriel Mountains.

    I also read Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas. I like what was said on the book "Somewhere Between Love And Forgiveness Lies Redemption." It takes place in 1920 in Swandyke, Colorado. A large snowslide covers nine children on their way home from school, only four of whom live. The book itself takes you into the lives, the secrets, and the histories of these families. It is an amazing story but is a tear jerker.

    Thank you,


  11. My book club agrees that The Help was an all time favorite of ours. We read Eat Pray Love last year & we're going together to see it at the movies when it comes out.
    I follow you on my yahoo home page.

  12. I am very intrigued by The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

    I recently read:
    1. The Space Between Us By Thrity Umrigar is the story of two women, Bhima and Sera who are great friends on the one hand, but because of their economic circumstances, there is a distance between them. Both these women have had difficult, painful lives which we learn about as the novel progresses. They are trying to reconcile their pasts while making sense of their current lives and find peace and happiness for the future. It's a beautifully written novel about love, friendship, family and understanding where we come from and where we belong.

    2. The Castaways by Elin Hildebrandis about a group of 8 couples and their children who live on Nantucket and have been inseperable best friends for years. When one couple dies in a tragic accident, everything changes between the families with some people getting mad at other people, some pointing fingers and some behaving in ways very different from normal. Eventually secrets come out and with it the truth.
    It's a stoery that wasn't quite the light read I thought it was going to be which was great. It really makes you think about your friends and family, what they mean to you and how all that can change in the blink of an eye.

    Thank you for a wonderful giveaway!

    Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

  13. Two books I've really enjoyed lately are:

    The Passage by Justin Cronin. It starts out like a thriller with a virus getting loose in the world and then quickly turns into a post-apocalyptic story as we learn what happened in the years after. I can't wait for the sequel.

    Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews. (One of my favorite writers.) This is the 4th book in the Kate Daniels series. It's set in an alternate universe Atlanta, Georgia where technology & magic war with each other. Magic comes in waves and when it does technology doesn't work. Love this series.

    Thanks! :0)
    librarygrinch at gmail dot com