by Aimee Bender (Windmill) ISBN: 978-0-099-53827-1
Rose Edelstein’s life changes when she eats the cake her mother bakes on her 9th birthday. She inexplicably tastes every emotion her mother has. And it’s not a good thing. Her beautiful mother tastes empty and small, and full of despair. Food becomes a battleground for the terrified child. She cannot explain what is happening to her.
Her brother, Joseph, is her mother’s gift, her ‘guide’. But Joseph is a loner, trapped in an interior world, unable to interact with others. Her father is the perfect provider. He leaves for work and returns like clockwork. His only quirk seems to be a morbid fear of hospitals. Her parents are polar opposites.
People in the Edelstein house speak but don’t communicate. Rose is the first person narrator, a witness to her dysfunctional family’s despair.
Bender writes beautifully. She does not use quotation marks for dialogue. She does not need to. Her rhythm is so well established. The problem with this book is that there is no plot. I wanted to love this book but I couldn’t.
The ending is the biggest failure of a ‘surprise’ I have encountered in a long time. I turned back the pages twice to check that this was what the author intended.
Sadly, it was.