One afternoon, nine-year-old Rose Edelstein bites into a warm slice of homemade cake and, instead of lemons, tastes an overwhelming feeling of depression.
A state of mind unrecognisable to a child, Rose is increasingly confused as to why her mother's cooking no longer tastes normal, and after a thoroughly melancholic evening meal she breaks down on the kitchen floor in tears and insists her mother drives her to the hospital to remove her mouth. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake explores the tensions, emotions and frustrations that evaporate into the very heart of the home: the kitchen, and Rose's gift—or curse—is to empathise with whoever has cooked what she eats. Bender's dream-like writing style carries you through Rose's peculiar story which meshes with that of her elder brother Joe, before the ending reaches a crescendo that is both unexpected and sublimely bizarre.
Like The Virgin Suicides or The Time Traveller's Wife, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an ethereal glimpse through the window of suburban American life. Rose's odd talent acts as a backdrop to her—and our—dawning realisation that, as much as we think we know our families, we are all strangers insofar as we choose what we share. Its blend of the literary and supernatural and its surprising pay-off certainly strikes a chord.