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Dear Thursday: THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender [Book 30 of 2010]

So this is my second book review of the year inspired by a suggested book from our Fierce and Nerdy book blogger, Amy Brown. The first book, THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman turned out to be my favorite book of the year so far. But what did I think of THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender? Read on to find out!

Why I Decided To Read It: B/c Amy made it sound soooo intriguing.

What It’s About: A girl discovers at a young age that she can tastes the emotions and inner lives of the people who prepare and make the food that she’s eating.

What Makes It Different: You know how they say white Americans can’t do magic realism? This is really good magic realism. And it’s really good precisely because this family is so very WASPish.

What I Loved: The writing is in one word: exquisite. I mean really, really exquisite. Spare and potent, just the way I like it. Also, the concept is killer, and I thought the hotly debated ending was perfect. I also loved that the whole thing was set in my beloved L.A.

What I Didn’t Like: I listened to the book and it felt like the author spent chapters and chapters describing the main character’s home and family. I actually put it down and listened to a whole nother book before coming back to this one. So I’d say give it about 100 pages to really get good and cracking. It’s worth the journey in, though.

Writing Lessons Learned:

It’s the writing stupid. This book really made me want to write better than I do. I always do my best when it comes to my own writing, but this book reminded me that I could do even better if I put my mind to it. Hopefully my next book reaps the benefits of the lessons learned here.

Write the back story. The ending, which I somehow didn’t see coming, but was, now that I think of it, inevitable, made the whole story feel like it had the structure of a Jeopardy question. “What is how did this character become the person she became, Alex?” And it makes me realize that some of the very best stories, are actually back stories.

Family as character. I’ve noticed that a lot of fiction characters, including my own, operate in a vacuum of family. Their parents aren’t around. Their siblings are merely comic relief and sounding boards. But no, Bender, paints a compelling portrait of an LA family that is boring, distant, woven tightly, light, and dark — all at the same time. Seriously, the best rendering of a family that I’ve read in quite a long time.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Angelenos, People Who Love Magic Realism, Writers, Magical Thinkers, and Foodies.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!