The story revolves around the life of Rose, who has an unusual skill: she can taste emotions in her food. This talent first develops when she is nine years old and is eating her mother's lemon cake, which she says tastes like absence and hunger. At first Rose tries to get rid of this ability by avoiding eating anything that is not pre-packaged and made by a machine. The story follows about 10 years of Rose's life and as she grows up, she learns to use the talent to her advantage. Along the way the reader learns about Rose's family through her peculiar skill.
Steeped in magical realism, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake lets the reader into the ins and outs of a family through food. A sense of loneliness and disconnect seems to pervade Bender's writing. While I wasn't completely blown away by this one, I continue to think about the book's lonely, quiet moments long after reading the last page.