The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The particular sadness of lemon cake


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.  (Summary and cover courtesy of


I realized about 1/3 of the day through reading this book that I had actually already read it.  So that’s a good indicator of the level of impact it had on me.  The thing that was partially frustrating was that I thought I was getting a relatively up-beat and interesting cooking-inspired book.  We do get some sense of that towards the end, but it’d not what the book is about.

This book is a long un-ending read where you think something momentous is right around the corner yet fails to deliver.  Even having read the book twice, I don’t understand why the author chose to end the book where she did.  It felt extremely abrupt to me.  Additionally, I was disappointed with the dynamic between Rose, her brother and George.  If Rose is our main character, I wanted to get in her head more and understand her emotion.  Instead it felt to me as if I were remotely watching a slow gray-scale documentary.  All in all, this book isn’t bad by any means, I just could not connect and didn’t feel as if I were left with anything lasting.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? Magical realism fans only.