Wednesday, August 3, 2011

a Dorito full of nothing.

Once upon a couple summers ago, my friend Mara and I were both sitting in different chairs at different kitchen tables in different kitchens at different times.
But despite these differences, we had one thing in common: we both were poring through the Wall Street Journal "Summer Reads" section.
And in that section of the newspaper we the striking image of a turquoise book with a brilliant yellow slice of cake caught our eyes. As did the unusual, quirky-but-lyrical title "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake."

Good gracious, what a thought.
How could something so bright, and yellow, and sunshiny have a particular sadness to it?
How intriguing.

And there that sat. And I forgot about the book and went on with my life. Until, a couple weeks ago, I ran into the library to grab a book. And, then, on a whim, I ran to see if "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" was on the shelf.
And it was. And I read it. In approximately forty-eight hours.
It was a beautiful little read.
In a nutshell, the book is this:

Our hero-Rose Edelstein, age 9- can taste emotions in food. Her mother, a delicate and languishing free spirit, bakes a lemon cake that tastes empty. The frustrated college graduate, making baked goods for the local patisserie, creates cookies that are laced with rage. A girlfriend makes a sandwich for her boyfriend that is screaming for attention and love.

It's a fascinating concept, and I was intrigued by all the places that Rose's gift takes her. And
Rose herself is an utterly delightful heroine. Her mother describes her as a rainforest-lush and beautiful, needing great care and attention.
And her new-found insight into other people's emotions is both a gift and a burden. As Rose says: "Many kids, it seemed, would find out that their parents were flawed, messed-up people later in life, and I didn't appreciate getting to know it all so strong and early." Her ability to taste people's deepest and most secret emotions gives her a wisdom and a point-of view that's brutally honest and wise beyond her years.

There's a whole plot line involving Rose's older brother that came to a strange and rather befuddling conclusion. I suppose tasting other people's emotions in the food they bake is a far-fetched concept; but I bought it. And I didn't really believe the fate that eventually befalls her older brother. But it's a darling book, and definitely worth a read.
And just look how pretty it is.
Moral of the story:
Always judge a book by its cover.


  1. Ah, you beat me to the punch; I was going to write a post about this, too. ;) I totally agree with you about the brother's story line. I was curious, I was interested, and then -- um, what just happened?

  2. Oh, and I totally just realized that the shadow on the cover is the shadow of a girl, not a piece of cake. Score one for the Observant Girl.

  3. Wow. 10 points to Gryffindor! I didn't even notice that the shadow was a girl.
    And please write your own post! I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm glad you felt the same way about the brother. I didn't understand what was going on at *all*