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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (27,781 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Aimee Bender Narrator: Aimee Bender Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9780307737144
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On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother, her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother, tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden, her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This coming-of-age story makes a bittersweet dish, brimming with a zesty, beguiling talent.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Moving, fanciful, and gorgeously strange.”


  • “Odd and oddly beautiful.”

    Washington Post

  • “A transformative narrative.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Odd and oddly beautiful....moving The Washington Post

  • Haunting....Bender's prose delivers electric shocks....rendering the world in fresh, unexpected jolts. Moving, fanciful and gorgeously strange People Magazine
  • Charming and wistful....[Bender] harness[es] her exquisite, bizarre sensitivity, in this haunting examination The Atlantic

    Bender is the master of quiet hysteria....She builds pressure sentence by sentence.....the crippling power of empathy
  • [A] transformative narrative....powerful San Francisco Chronicle
  • "Plenty of plot surprise, as well as numerous insights into character....beauty of the author's prose, which is both straighforward and unusually sensuous....my guess is that this novel will be one of the year's highlights. Intense and compelling, it explores familial love in an unusually idiosyncratic but nonetheless convincing manner, and I find that I'm still thinking about Rose [the novel's protagonist] days after finishing the book. Portland Oregonian
  • Dreamy....Playful prose....one of the most pleasant books we've read all year New York Observer
  • A funny, haunting, hurting, coming-of-age story Christian Science Monitor
  • "Original and revealing....unique style--part magic, part clean prose Denver Post
  • [Bender is] a treasure: a modern fabulist drawn equally to the magic and the realities of contemporary life.....gets the details right....rich and fully alive Philadelphia City Paper
  • Bender is exceptionally good at what she does.....simultaneously appealing to imagination, emotion, and intellect....the power of her writing lies in the contrast between her spare, measured sentences, and the limitless metaphorical possibilities those sentences describe. Portland Mercury
  • Bender spins this tale of magical realism with her familiar darkness....haunting....sticks with the reader long past the final page....moments of quiet brilliance Wisconsin State Journal
  • One has to admire Bender's originality and her ability to produce stories that make one grateful fro being ordinary. Detroit Free Press
  • Extraordinary.... a complicated novel with significant emotional heft....The delicacy with which Bender captures Rose’s tastes makes this not just a deeply felt novel but one of the most inventive pieces of food writing in recent memory. Time Out New York
  • The fairy-tale elements in her writing, far from seeming outlandish, highlight the everyday nature of her characters' flaws and struggles. In Ms. Bender's stories and novels, relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities. Wall Street Journal
  • Bender has guts,,,,Rose is an irresistible narrator: warm, witty and sharply observant....quirky, unpredictable voices will surprise and entertain readers....a superb stylist. While acknowledging the dark, she maintains an exuberant, life-affirming attitude. Miami Herald
  • Taking her very personal brand of pessimistic magical realism to new heights (or depths), Bender's second novel....carreens splendidly through an obstacle course of pathological, fantastical neuroses.....[Bender] emerges as more a spelunker of the human soul....plumbs an emotionally crippled family with power and authenticity....brimming with a zesty, beguiling talent. Publishers Weekly

    Willful Creatures
  • [Bender] is Hemingway on an acid trip; her choices are twisted, both ethereal and surprisingly weighty . . . Terrifyingly lovely. Los Angeles Times
  • To curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place Entertainment Weekly
  • New, exciting, harsh, rugged, and unyielding . . . Every sentence in [Willful Creatures] is a fresh surprise. Washington Post
  • An Invisible Sign of My Own

    “Intelligent and engaging . . . [A] fanciful and original take on the quietly helter-skelter world that lies within.
    New York Times
  • [Bender] writes sentences that make the senses take flight....wonderfully strange....dazzling and remarkably precise, both sensual and exacting....makes reality itself magical The Courier-Journal
  • wacky stew of alienation and contradiction....unraveling family secrets as strangely lucid as they are nightmarish. At its core, Aimee Bender's novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake encourages us all to make the most of our unique gifts while still finding a way to live in the so-called real world O, The Oprah Magazine
  • "Bender's writing is deep and textured Star Tribune
  • High-hearted and soulful.... weaves elaborate surreal elements....sets up her central metaphor brilliantly NPR.org
  • An achingly idiosyncratic story . . . rendered . . . with eloquence, hilarity, and ominous precision. Boston Globe
  • The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
  • Makes you grateful for the very existence of language San Francisco Chronicle
  • From cleverly comic to starkly surreal, Bender’s audacious characters surprise and delight. Sometimes, they even make you weep. Boston Globe

  • “Bender deconstructs one of our most pleasurable activities, eating, and gives it a whole new flavor. She smooths out the lumps and grittiness of life to reveal its zest.”

    Library Journal

  • Winner of Margaret A. Edwards Award (Alex Awards), 2011
  • Winner of the 2011 YALSA Alex Award
  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Fiction
  • Winner of Alex Award - YALSA, 2011
  • Selected for the June 2010 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ariana | 2/14/2014

    " Weird. Just weird. Moments of okay ness. But many more moments that just didn't connect. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to get it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Beth | 2/5/2014

    " Having seen this on several book club lists, I was expecting a little more than I got. The premise of the book (girl eats food, tastes emotion of person who baked/cooked it) intrigued me, but I think Bender spent too much time on the front of the novel, skipped developing the brother's tie-in, and wrapped up the book too hastily. I would not recommend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melanie | 1/30/2014

    " 3.5. This is an odd, but oddly beautiful book. It has flaws, but it definitely gets people talking. I enjoyed it, but not everyone will like it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura Buechler | 1/22/2014

    " An oddly compelling little story about Rose, a girl who suddenly discovers she can taste emotions through food, and thus becomes privy to secrets and pain she'd rather not share. Finding her ability to be both inescapable and impossible for others to believe or understand, Rose carves her own path through life, creating strategies and tricks to make the burden bearable. The second half of the book is fascinating as the other characters in her family begin to reveal themselves in very unexpected ways, giving context to Rose's experiences. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 L3nda | 1/21/2014

    " What a creative idea! It started out so good and then all of a sudden was not.. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elli Sandis | 12/30/2013

    " I loved this book for its child's point of view and weirdness. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Leslie | 12/21/2013

    " It was extremely interesting to me, I believe there are people who are strongly empathic but to feel the emotions of ther person preparing the food...what a burden for a young child! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 June | 12/9/2013

    " I can believe a story about a girl who can tell a person's emotions by the food that they prepare but a brother who can become a piece of furniture.....puhleez! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Juli Kinrich | 12/4/2013

    " Loved it; magical realism that, for once, I liked! Quirky, funny, inventive, touching, evocative. I would definitely read more by her. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shelley | 11/30/2013

    " Well, it's likable enough-- good characters, well-written, pleasant story but my overall take-away was "SO WHAT?" Read it for my book group. Won't read another by this author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 dara | 6/8/2013

    " A book about family. A lil girl who can taste the feeling of someone by tasting the food they cook. And then she can know is it organic, or the place the ingredient from, bla bla bla.not much explore about the feeling thoght. Dont like it much, but okey for an evening reading. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Aileen | 6/2/2013

    " Tried to read this book twice....ugh! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carlyn | 5/5/2013

    " Great magical realism. I took a lit class as an undergrad at USC from one lady, when I could have taken a class with Aimee Bender. Boohoo, me. I am grateful for her books and that is all. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jodi Bowman | 3/23/2013

    " I thought the theme was unique...the girl can read peoples feelings when she eats the food they make! But the family was sad and disconnected. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aticha | 1/3/2012

    " I love the story and its details. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelli | 6/30/2011

    " Sweet and mysterious. Comes down to seeing your life as a blessing or a curse. I was so happy with the choice this girl makes for herself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz | 6/30/2011

    " I wish Goodreads had half-stars, because I was in between "liked it", and "really liked it". I liked the concept, and the eventual endings for most of the characters, but it dragged some in the middle. Worth the read, if you come across a copy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessica | 6/29/2011

    " I loved this book! Aimee Bender created a unique plot with engaging characters, as well as beautiful imagery and eloquent sentence structures. I plan on checking out more of her work. My only complaint is that she didn't tie up all of the loose ends, leaving me hanging. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura | 6/29/2011

    " An unusual look at innate talents and how they affect our lives. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Angie | 6/28/2011

    " This was an easy read and I thought an interesting story about a family. Still thinking about it a few days later. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brooke | 6/28/2011

    " The magic realism was interesting, but I can't say that I felt all that connected to the protagonist or her brother; the most sympathetic character to me was her mother, and I think that might not have been the author's intention. In the end, I felt a little let down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alyssa | 6/27/2011

    " Really weird and sad. I like it just cuz its so different from my typical reads "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mimy | 6/27/2011

    " A very weird book but very interesting! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sue | 6/26/2011

    " Another of our book club picks. Very strange but engaging - well written and true to the voice of the main character. Her "gift" made some sense but the "gift" of the brother's was just too far out there. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janet | 6/25/2011

    " Third food title in a row, and the first book read on my I Phone! An odd story, lovingly told, of a girl who can sense the emotions of all the people who had a part in making the food she is eating. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Christine | 6/23/2011

    " I was disappointed with the ending and some of the magical realism, particularly that which dealt with her brother was a little far fetched even for me. It's a weak substitute for Like Water for Chocolate. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kaia | 6/23/2011

    " An interesting concept--a blend of magic realism mixed into an otherwise unsatisfied middle-class American novel. I thought the idea of the daughter taking on the tragedy of her family through food was clever and tragic and fascinating. Worth the read. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Denise | 6/22/2011

    " Strange and unappealing. I only finished it because I can't leave a book in the middle! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Raeesa | 6/22/2011

    " im giving it two stars because i really liked the general idea. but, did i miss something? i totally didn't understand what was up with her brother (just some other power, but what...). i also didnt find the ending very satsifying "

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About the Author
Author Aimee BenderAIMEE BENDER is the author of the novels The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake—a New York Times bestseller—and An Invisible Sign of My Own, and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures. Her works have been widely anthologized and have been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles.