Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lemon Cake - Exploring Family Dynamics

These past two months I took a break from my weekly blogging to focus on finishing up work needed to submit my graduate school application.  The biggest wall I had to climb was writing the literary critique on a book I read. 
T felt the paper was forced.  Perhaps it was.  But, I think maybe it was more stressed.  A lot depends on this - like getting into graduate school. A dream..... 
The book I chose was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  If you haven't read this book its Like Water for Chocolate at a different angle.  The books is about a family relationship.  Most of Bender's stories I have found are about relationships.  Specifically, they are about dysfunctional family relationship. 

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about the masks and roles we play out in families. It is about not being truthful emotionally and going through the motions of being a family as seen on TV. This lack of honest communication creates a lot of missed opportunities to strengthen relationships.

Food is the primary symbol used throughout the novel's plotline. Bender uses it in a way opposite to how we think about it. The narrator, Rose discovers on her ninth birthday that she is a food empathic. She is able to taste the unspoken emotions of the food preparer. It starts with her birthday cake her mom bakes - lemon cake with chocolate frosting.

Before placing that first fork full in our mouths, we all can imagine what a lemon cake is going to taste like. The brightness, the citrus and the sunny energy. Rose can discern these flavors, but she also tastes her mother's sadness. She realizes that this is the opposite of the façade her mother appears - cheerful and all smiles. She discovers that no one is being truthful about their feelings after eating their dishes. Sadly, she discovers no one seems to be committed to changing.

A lot of people don't like the book. I think it has to do with reality. Not every story has a happy ending. There are some family relationships that are so toxic and you may need to just walk away. And, that is okay.  Some families can't be fixed.

The message of the book - you need to be honest with your emotions and be authentic with yourself and to the world.