Aimee Bender · Book Review · Fiction

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


On the eve of her 9th birthday Rose discovers 
that she can taste her mother's emotions in 
the lemon cake that her mother is baking. Is 
her mind playing tricks? But a second bite 
puts all doubts to rest. Over the next couple of 
days Rose begins to realize that she has the 
weird ability to taste a person's emotions from
the food they make. All of a sudden Rose knows 
things she'd rather not, secrets she could do 
without. And whether she likes it or not, she 
cannot eat anything without tasting something 

Even though the book is written very well, I 
thought it quite disappointing.I had been 
looking forward to reading this book for 
months – only to find that it fell way short of 
what I had been expecting. The only character 
who seems real enough is Rose. Her family, 
though mentioned very often, are described 
very vaguely with hints of stories of their own.
The story seems stretched without a strong 
enough climax. And I found the ending 
extremely unsatisfactory and unsettling. There 
seemed to be a lot of loose ends in this story.

Though Aimee Bender is a wonderful writer, 
very descriptive, it was frustrating to have 
been strung along through the entire book 
only to have it all collapse. But I would 
recommend this book for the way it's been 
written. Aimee Bender can paint the most 
realistic and amazing word pictures. But I 
can't imagine anyone finding this book 
satisfying simply for the way it's been written. 
The only people who may like it are the ones 
who like feeling unsettled and who take 
pleasure in the “what ifs” and the “maybes”. 
If you are one of them, I would recommend it 




5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

  1. Honestly, I own this book, and it’s not really one of those genre-fiction type stories. It’s more for the questions the story brings up. Why did things collapse? That sort of thing. I definitely don’t think it’s much for joyful entertainment, as Bender seems to be going for that shocked, what happened there type reaction. In that sense it excels, but it won’t leave you with a feel-good emotion at the end of the novel, definitely not. If that’s what you’re looking for in this story, whew, stay clear. But you’re right about Bender’s awesome writing. She’s great at creating a captivating world, despite how shocking and, to be honest, rather plainly realistic (despite Rose’s abilities) it is.


    1. You know, I hadn’t thought that that was the kind of reaction Aimee Bender was going for. But now that you’ve mentioned it, her other writings are rather shocking (comparitively). And it’s very possible that that was the reaction she was aiming for. Thank you for pointing that out!


      1. Literary fiction, which is what Aimee’s style reminds me of (stuff like The Road basically), tends to be more about producing thought instead of producing a good ending. I think that’s why genre fiction and literary fiction lovers tend to clash and snarl at one another so much, you know?


  2. Thank you so much for reading and for the feedback. I’m still learning all these things about assessing a book critically. So far I’ve only been good at reading and enjoying a book. I really hadn’t thought of all this. I hope you get to read my other posts as well. Your comments make me think what had never struck me to think before.


    1. Well it makes sense. Most people don’t think to look critically at a book that is, traditionally, supposed to be for pure entertainment and enjoyment, you know? Literary fiction is also in the minority, so when you run into it, it can sometimes just seem like a depressing and random novel, haha. I know that’s what I thought of some other novels until someone pointed out that they were meant to be dark for us to think about the subjects involved. It had never occurred to me to do that, so believe me, I understand. Literary fiction is also hard to swallow and, to me at least, shouldn’t be read all the time, as it takes a lot of intellect and analyzing.

      But if you want, try something with any old book. Read it and think about themes. What is the author trying to portray or convey through her work? Sometimes it’s simple, especially with romance, but you’d be surprised how much depth can be in certain books if you look at them with an intellectual lens after you’re done enjoying it. =)


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