Judging a book by its cover #2: “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake”

(image via kalafudra.wordpress.com)


The object of this new series, which I am starting in conjunction with my wonderful friend, Elle, who blogs at Inkproductions.org (well-written, entertaining and thoughtful articles on all things writing and blogging-oriented) is to grab a long-neglected unread book off our shelves, speculate on what we think the book’s about based solely on its cover and then – ta dah! – reveal what the book is really trying to say.

Is it unfair to judge a book by its cover? We’re about to find out!

A young girl, who is without friends of any kind save for a few lemons she finds in a fruit shop one day (which she spray paints bright yellow to hide their decaying state and speaks to in a secret language only dogs and fruit can hear) decides that the only way she will ever be happy is to learn to bake.

Alas though she is poor and unable to afford much in the way of groceries so buying the eggs, flour and sugar exhausts her food budget, leaving her without anything to flavour the cake she intends to bake. Forced to sacrifice her lemon friends for the greater good of the pursuit of happiness (life and liberty will have to wait for another day), she is devastated to learn that their sense of teeth-gnashing betrayal at being used in such an uncaring way flavours the cake with a lingering taste of bitter, reproaching sadness.

Distraught, and wondering how she could have done this to her only friends, and yet hungry for an afternoon snack, she uses the last of her sugar to make a rich, deep icing, smothering the cake, and its happiness-destroying taste in overpowering sweetness.

But she finds to her cost that her happiness lasts only as long as the icing and its attendant sugar buzz, and she wonders if she will ever be happy again.


(image via cheezburger.com)


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) (source: BookBrowse.com)

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