A couple of weeks ago, I checked this book out of the library. I liked the sound of the title, I liked the cover, I’d heard good things about it so I figured I would at least hold it in my hands to see what it would do. Melissa emailed me and said “hey, I have it too, let’s read together” which I love to do so I said “okay!” And we read.
And then we discussed because much discussion was warranted. Much. Mucho. Many, many thoughts were thought and spoke… er… well TYPED and here they are. Actually here is the second half, you’ll have to visit Melissa for the first. Cautions, it may get a bit spoilery, but all of my feelings on this book are there. Except for what I thought about the punctuation OR LACK THEREOF and how much that totally bugged me except for the brief moments when I was able to forget that Aimee Bender seems to have something against QUOTATION MARKS. It kinda makes it hard to decide that hey, that person is saying that and THAT person is thinking that, or did they say that, or was that that person? Totally baffles me. Anyhoo, here is the second part of our conversation and it hopefully makes more sense. I’m sick and doped up and probably not making much sense anyway. I wasn’t when we talked though, so it should be good.
Stop laughing. I am sick. Totally sick. And you shouldn’t laugh at the sick. 😉
Part ONE is here. Go there then come back. This is part TWO.
Melissa: I think they were incredibly dysfunctional! I mean, how could Rose’s mom carry on her affair for so many years and her husband never figure it out? Why didn’t she want to leave if she wasn’t happy in her marriage? What were they getting at with their appearance of a happy family? I agree: they knew nothing about each other — think: if her dad had been more open about his childhood, maybe Rose wouldn’t have had to suffer all those years! — and that added to the dysfunction of the story as a whole. What did you think of George? Did you kind of hope he and Rose would get together (I did…)?
Heather: I TOTALLY hoped he and Rose would get together! He alone seemed to truly understand her and wanted to HELP her adjust to the way her life was going to be. Their “moment” was my favorite part of the book. And he was my favorite character.
So I’m curious, what exactly do you think Joseph’s “power” was? To turn into things? To simply disappear? I was kinda confused by all that; seeing as how he would disappear for years only to reappear dehydrated and sick. You’d think it would have killed him!
Melissa: I agree: George was my favorite character. That, and the cafe owners — can’t remember their names right now. I wanted more of both of them. As for Joseph, I think his skill was turning into things. There was a part where they mentioned he’d been a desk and a bed, but that his favorite was a chair. I think it was impossibly sad that he felt more comfortable as an inanimate object than as a person. Which is surprising, since (according to Rose), he was their mom’s favorite. Maybe he felt suffocated? At any rate, I think he did “die”, even though Rose kept the chair he turned into, just in case.
Did you feel the title fit the book?
Heather: I loved the cafe owners! I could read a whole book about them!
And I agree. Joseph’s situation was impossibly sad. I think he probably did feel suffocated. His mother put everything into him, all her love, all of her thoughts and feelings…I mean even Rose was disgusted by what she perceived as their somewhat incestuous relationship. It was the only way he could get away.
As for the title… I did like it. Very much. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to read the book. I love Lemon Cake and The Particular Sadness of it intrigued me. I don’t think it’s sad at all, I am happy eating it! So that attracted me immediately because I had to know what was so sad about it. I love the irony of it. So yes, to me, it did fit. You?
Melissa: I’m not sure. I think on some levels it worked for me, since that was the first trigger Rose had. But, I’m not sure, in the end, it worked for me. It was so much more than lemon cake and sadness. But, saying that, I’m not sure what I would have named it. (I guess that’s kind of a cop out on my part, isn’t it?) Any last thoughts?
Heather: Not really. I’m still vaguely disappointed by the book, but chatting with you about it has helped me clear my head about it in many ways. All in all I think it was a good read, but I really think Bender could have done more with the premise. I’d still read another book by her. How about you?
Melissa: I think, much the same. Bender has some great ideas; perhaps there’s another book by her that has a better execution? Or maybe I just expected something more Sarah Addison Allen-ish, and I wasn’t open-minded enough about it all. I agree, though: I’d read another book by her. It’s been fun chatting about the book with you, too.
Heather: Oh my gosh, you’re right! I think I was expecting something more Sarah Addison Allenish. Thank you, you just put my finger on my problem with the book.
It has been fun! We need to do it again!
Melissa: Yes, we do!
Author: Aimee Bender
Category: Amazon says this is LITERARY
Published by: Doubleday
On Sale: June 1, 2010
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