"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake"

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

For the first time in almost a year, I've read a book that makes me want to say something about it. Excited? Yes. Intimidated? Yes. Here are the somethings I want to say:
  • If I hadn't read great reviews I'd never have picked it up. At first glance the cover suggested the book might be fluffier than I like, but I think this picture represents the title, and it's a good title, rather than the story. The lemon cake is the door to the story, but there is so much more.
  • When I finished reading, I felt much like I had when I finished Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarter. Exhilarated. Grateful for a writer who can still surprise me. Wishing the book was longer because I wasn't ready to be done yet. 
  • So many times I wanted to underline certain perfect descriptions of emotion, or perfect insights into what it is to be human, but I couldn't because it wasn't mine, it belonged to the library. 
  • I liked every character. Not that they were in any way perfect, they were flawed and confused and just getting through the day the best way they could. In the past few months I've read book after book where I didn't like any of the characters, or at least not enough to really care what happened to them. Finally, a story world I didn't want to leave and couldn't wait to get back to. Why are these books never 500 pages long?
  • The book requires a suspension of disbelief. If you go into it wanting only the reality you know, or want to know, you might not like it. Be prepared to consider that your assumptions about what is possible and what is not may have to be adjusted, that Hamlet was right when he said there were more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. 
  • Aimee Bender has that wonderful ability to make the reader feel the ache the characters feel. Or maybe it's simply that these characters ask you to look inside yourself and admit your own ache. Either way, she's good at it.  
  • There is no villain in this story. Nobody to be hated, nobody to be defeated, beaten, killed or moralized away. Just people, strong in some ways and weak in others, who find their own individual ways to adjust to the strangeness, the sadness of life. 
  • This is not a book about light and sweet things. It is a book about living with whatever you are given to live with. There's an existential angst that is neither dark nor depressing. If anything, it's hopeful that there is almost always a way to live with life. And when there isn't, well, there isn't.  
  • This is writing that made me want to swallow the book whole and let the words live inside me. Page after page that made me wonder why I can't say things like that.
  • Back to the cover. I want it to be more serious, something more profound, that would give a potential reader some indication that there is weight to this story. 
  • I'm adding this book to my short list of favourites.
  • Henceforth, I may be more careful about judging a book by it's cover. Maybe. 

Happy New Year!