Excerpt from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

A Novel

by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2010, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2011, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Casey Cep

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

It happened for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon, a warm spring day in the flatlands near Hollywood, a light breeze moving east from the ocean and stirring the black- eyed pansy petals newly planted in our flower boxes. My mother was home, baking me a cake. When I tripped up the walkway, she opened the front door before I could knock. How about a practice round? she said, leaning past the door frame. She pulled me in for a hello hug, pressing me close to my favorite of her aprons, the worn cotton one trimmed in sketches of twinned red cherries.

On the kitchen counter, she’d set out the ingredients: Flour bag, sugar box, two brown eggs nestled in the grooves between tiles. A yellow block of butter blurring at the edges. A shallow glass bowl of lemon peel. I toured the row. This was the week of my ninth birthday, and it had been a long day at school of cursive lessons, which I hated, and playground yelling about point scoring, and the sunlit kitchen and my warm- eyed mother were welcome arms, open. I dipped a finger into the wax baggie of brown- sugar crystals, murmured yes, please, yes.

She said there was about an hour to go, so I pulled out my spelling booklet. Can I help? I asked, spreading out pencils and papers on the vinyl place mats.

Nah, said Mom, whisking the flour and baking soda together.

My birthday is in March, and that year it fell during an especially bright spring week, vivid and clear in the narrow residential streets where we lived just a handful of blocks south of Sunset. The night- blooming jasmine that crawled up our neighbor’s front gate released its heady scent at dusk, and to the north, the hills rolled charmingly over the horizon, houses tucked into the brown. Soon, daylight savings time would arrive, and even at nearly nine, I associated my birthday with the first hint of summer, with the feeling in classrooms of open windows and lighter clothing and in a few months no more homework. My hair got lighter in spring, from light brown to nearly blond, almost like my mother’s ponytail tassel. In the neighborhood gardens, the agapanthus plants started to push out their long green robot stems to open up to soft purples and blues.

Mom was stirring eggs; she was sifting flour. She had one bowl of chocolate icing set aside, another with rainbow sprinkles. A cake challenge like this wasn’t a usual afternoon activity; my mother didn’t bake all that often, but what she enjoyed most was anything tactile, and this cake was just one in a long line of recent varied hands- on experiments. In the last six months, she’d coaxed a strawberry plant into a vine, stitched doilies from vintage lace, and in a burst of motivation installed an oak side door in my brother’s bedroom with the help of a hired contractor.

She’d been working as an office administrator, but she didn’t like copy machines, or work shoes, or computers, and when my father paid off the last of his law school debt, she asked him if she could take some time off and learn to do more with her hands. My hands, she told him, in the hallway, leaning her hips against his; my hands have had no lessons in anything. Anything? he’d asked, holding tight to those hands. She laughed, low. Anything practical, she said.

They were right in the way, in the middle of the hall, as I was leaping from room to room with a plastic leopard. Excuse me, I said. He breathed in her hair, the sweet- smelling thickness of it. My father usually agreed with her requests, because stamped in his two- footed stance and jaw was the word Provider, and he loved her the way a bird- watcher’s heart leaps when he hears the call of the roseate spoonbill, a fluffy pink wader, calling its lilting coo- coo from the mangroves. Check, says the bird- watcher. Sure, said my father, tapping a handful of mail against her back. Rah, said the leopard, heading back to its lair.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender Copyright © 2010 by Aimee Bender. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Culinary Delights

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -