Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

At first this seemed like a reminiscence of lost childhood innocence. Ho hum. But then it got interesting. The "weird taste" that the 9 year old was feeling was actually the "feelings" that went in to the preparation of the food. It becomes "chick lit with a sci-fi twist." She can identify every nuance that goes in to food. The produce was picked by struggling midwestern migrants. Or a cookie that was baked by an angry employee.

Because of her "insight", eating becomes a chore. She drifts towards heavily processed food as most of the feeling is hidden away. She also is attracted to a few food preparers with authentic feelings that she can trust.

Due to her ability to sense feelings in food, she is able to know a great deal about other people. She knows an especially great deal about her mother, since she often prepares the food at home. (One night she even tastes "affair" in the food that is prepared.)

This poses a cautionary tale. Is it good to have extra knowledge? Would it be better to limit the knowledge that you take in? What are the responsibilities when you know something that most others do not? The book seemed to open up all sorts of interesting ideas and plotlines. What is it like to grow up with a special ability? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a talent? How can a daughter seek to relate with her family, knowing things about them that they don't know? And then there was the childhood crush and relationship she had with her older brother's best friend.

Unfortunately, after going great at first, the novel just runs out of gas. It gets carried away with "explanations" (Her grandfather had a crazy sense of smell, her father thinks he has some special 'hospital' talent, and her brother can go into furniture.) She sort of grows up normal, has a pseudo-relationship with a boy she's known through grade school, never goes to college, sees her brother disappear for good, attends her brother's friend's wedding and yada yada yada, the novel ends. Oh well, it had some great potential.

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