Dear Aimee Bender:
I'm not the type to write fan mail, but I just finished your very excellent book " The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" and feel that I must register my complete appreciation. I dove eagerly into your novel as soon as I read the hardcover flap. I loved the story of this young girl, Rose, who can magically taste the emotions of the cook in the food they prepare. An idea definitely worth exploring, and something that I could really sink my teeth into (da-da-da dum!). I suppose I was half expecting some high-end and soaring food writing, and while there was some of that- you're writing is lovely and true, what really affected me was the effect this magical ability had on Rose. Being placed in a position she didn't want to be in-Rose at a very young age was privy to information she just didn't want to know. I got how this extraordinary talent became an unbearable burden for her, so that all she enjoyed eating was Doritos and Oreos because they were made in factories by machines that are devoid of pain and emotions.
Of course, I tried to imagine what it would be like to have this ability. Initially I think it would be amazing, but once the novelty wore off I think it would be pretty awful, actually. Imagine eating your Mom's chicken and tasting unhappiness and emptiness, which is of course what happened to Rose. Or biting into a chocolate chip cookie baked by your friend and tasting insecurity and envy. Feelings like sadness, anger, jealousy are probably not at all tasty or nourishing. Joy, contentment, good humor, inspiration are probably delicious, but how often would one come across these emotions? Rose doesn't encounter very much of it during the novel. It is a world of pain and disconnection that she lives in.
Rose's story is an allegorical view of the plight of a highly sensitive person, someone who internalizes other people's feelings and reactions and thoughts and moods, and the kind of misery that heightened awareness brings. It was written so well and was so rooted in reality that the fairytale aspects of the book were easy to accept. It had me thinking about so much, I couldn't fall asleep after finishing it at 1:00 am. My mind was like a glass with a bee trapped inside it.
Something that I thought a lot about was the idea of tasting feelings through food. I know when I'm angry or in a bad mood while cooking it gets dumped into the food. And when I'm feeling cheery and open my cakes and desserts have an added warmth and yumminess to it. The culinary aspect of the book added a whole other layer of identification for me.
Anyway, just a nod to your fantastic book. Thanks for writing it.