Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway:: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Warning:: This review contains spoilers. If you want to enter the giveaway but don't want to read the review, scroll down until you see more red text.

From the dust jacket:

On the eve of her ninth birthday Rose Edelstein, a girl on the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents' attention, bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers that she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice.

Okay, so from the get go we know that this book is going to be quirky and off kilter. Which is fine. In fact it's what initially compelled me to read the book. I'm totally cool with a little bit of magical realism. If it adds to the story. My problem with it in this instance, is that it is the story. The first half of the book is just page after page of Rose eating foods and tasting emotions, with nothing coming of it. She can taste her brother's sadness and her mom's loneliness and boredom. She can taste all the feelings and emotions of cafeteria workers and restaurant chefs. She can even detect that her mom is having an affair. But none of this goes anywhere.

But the author really lost me about three-fourths of the way through when Rose discovers that her brother, Joseph, has a secret trick of his own. For years now he's been mysteriously disappearing only to return out of the blue, with little explanation as to where he had gone. During one such disappearance Rose goes to his apartment to check on him, finally finding him up in his room looking sickly. Upon further inspection she sees that where his legs are supposed to be, he now has the legs of a chair. He can disappear into furniture, becoming whatever piece of furniture he's gone into.

This was my WTF!? moment. I literally read and re-read the same few pages over and over again trying to make sense of it all, but there was no making sense of it. The author had just turned the brother into a chair and there was nothing I could do about it.

(As a minor side note: I was also bothered by Rose's reaction to this. She's clearly shook up and people keep asking her what she saw but she never tells anyone. There's a whole lot of, I just can't say or The words are in me but not coming out or The words to describe this are buried in me. Blah. I hate that. I always get so irritated when a character keeps something inside that we all know they should share. Had that been me, I would have been telling everyone about chair boy. There would have been a blog post the next day describing how I saw someone turn into a chair.)

Again, none of this probably would have bugged me if there had been more explanation or answers as to why these things happened. At the end of the story, we read that Rose's dad has some minor insight into it, but not really enough to answer all the questions. At best, this book felt unfinished, like maybe an outline of a story-to-be. At worst, it felt juvenile and silly.

Whenever I have strong feelings for a book, I like to look up reviews to see if anyone else felt the same way I did. I was shocked to see that a lot of folks really loved this book, finding it whimsical and charming. How do you think you'd feel about it? If you want to find out, then let me know in the comments and I'll pop the book in the mail to you. But there's a catch: You have to promise to share your thoughts about the book on your blog. In the event that more than one person wants the book, I'll choose someone randomly and announce the winner on Monday. Peggy got the ball rolling with this idea. If you want to read her thoughts on the book, go here.


Maria Rose said...

Yeah, I'd like to read the book. I love reading books that get strong reactions one way or the other. I recently read a book that I hated and went and read reviews, only to find that the rest of the world thought it was good! Still, the book sucked.

daphne said...

You know I don't hesitate to give a bad review! (or a good one). I've been curious about this book -- my boss is reading it right now. I'll see what she thought of it.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Your review made me giggle.
I love when you said you'd be on the blog right away telling us about chair boy.

You know how I feel about this book since I started it all but really it had such promise didn't it?

I think you put it best when you said that it was more like the outline of the book instead of a finished product.

I think something is wrong with me. I hated eat, pray love and we all know how well that sold. I didn't care for this and it's been so popular and I seldom like an Oprah pick. So apparently I am book flawed!

Carla said...

I'm intrigued..and would love to read it and form my own opinion!

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

I'd give this one a whirl....I'm always on the prowl for a new book and I really need to get out of my current rut (right now, I'm still hooked on Cathy Lamb's).

Dani said...

I was very interested by what the dust jacket said...and then I skipped down and gathered by the rest of the red text that you didn't like it. So, that's what has me even more interested.

lia said...

Huh. I really don't know what to say. Sounds crazy, though, and I'm pretty damn sure I don't want to read it. Good review, too.

beck said...

I love a good book, as you already know, and I always find it interesting when someone loves what I can't stand! So count me in, if you are happy to post to Australia. Have a happy weekend xo

Aleta said...

Hi Tammie - I wanted to thank you for reading my blog. I always look forward to your comments and wanted to say I won't be gone for too long, hopefully :)

That said - I LOVE your book reviews! I've heard about this book and was looking forward to your review. Now.. I'm glad that I didn't read it. Lol. I must have had a WTF look on my face after reading about the chair boy. And I had to laugh, because I'd be taking pictures and blogging about it too!