Monday, November 1, 2010
The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake
Taking her very personal brand of pessimistic magical realism to new heights (or depths), Bender's second novel (following An Invisible Sign of My Own) careens splendidly through an obstacle course of pathological, fantastical neuroses. Bender's narrator is young, needy Rose Edelstein, who can literally taste the emotions of whoever prepares her food, giving her unwanted insight into other people's secret emotional lives—including her mother's, whose lemon cake betrays a deep dissatisfaction. Rose's father and brother also possess odd gifts, the implications of which Bender explores with a loving and detailed eye while following Rose from third grade through adulthood. Bender has been called a fabulist, but emerges as more a spelunker of the human soul; carefully burrowing through her characters' layered disorders and abilities, Bender plumbs an emotionally crippled family with power and authenticity. Though Rose's gift can seem superfluous at times, and Bender's gustative insights don't have the sensual potency readers might crave, this coming-of-age story makes a bittersweet dish, brimming with a zesty, beguiling talent.
Rose is a 9 year old girl, quite ordinary healthy fun loving girl....till one day she can "taste" her mother's unhappiness in the lemon cake she has made for Rose's birthday. And so it begins. Rose can taste all the info about whatever food she is eating. Sad chickens, tire orange pickers, butter from France. Processed junk food becomes her best friend. Sometimes she gets lucky and can eat a meal without pain or anger, sorrow or hurt. Her mother doesn't understand, her father is clueless, her older by three years, brother, well he is a n introverted oddball to say the least. Her mother is a bit of a whack too, but oh well. The sun rises and sets on brother Joe, in the mom's eyes. He has one friend, George, who is very very smart, smarter than Joe the genius. George tries to help Rose with her problem, Joe just gets annoyed. George views it scientifically and quiet cool.
One night, Joe is relegated to babysitter while their parents attend the dad's law firm party. Rose is doing her own thing when she goes looking for him. He has disappeared. About twenty minutes later he comes out of his room. "Where were you?" Rose yells, almost in a panic. "I was in your room looking for a pink Pegasus pen." he replies. This sets off giggling hysterics between the two that they have never shared before and never happens again. It is also the beginning of Joe's disappearing.
I read this book for my sis-in-laws book club. On the whole it was a very sad story. The problem was the monotonous tone of the book. There was no emotion, as a matter of fact, the book didn't contain one single quotation mark. Run on sentences galore was the the norm. It was all told by Rose and I was waiting to read - See Spot run, see Jane run. The idea of the story itself was very good, I just felt Bender could have expounded more and detailed more. for that reason it missed it's mark. It also took a turn that pissed me off royally!!! For that I have my spoiler box for those who choose to read it or have read this book.
2 1/2 cannolis