Early on in Monique TruongвЂ™s powerful new novel, BITTER IN THE MOUTH, the narrator, Linda Hammerick, realizes her family is keeping secrets from her. вЂњWhat I know about you, little girl, would break you in two. Those were the last words that my grandmother ever said to me,вЂќ Linda recalls. It will take many more years before Linda can discover what those secrets are but before then she must navigate a strained childhood in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina.
Ever since the publication of her story collection,THE GIRL IN THE FLAMMABLE SKIRT, Aimee Bender has established herself as a writer of minimalist magic realism, a description that seems contradictory given the lush prose of the founding father of magic realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the emotional adjective-laden writing of popular American author Alice Hoffman. But Aimee Bender has claimed her niche as a writer who tells stories the way we pass on fairy tales to our children: spare plots that contain wondrous images and, ultimately, wisdom. Her plots center on one or two magic elements in an otherwise ordinary world. In her latest novel, THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, Bender focuses on narrator Rose, a girl who learns, to her horror, that she can taste the emotions of those who cooked or grew her food, whether that person is her desperate mother or the farmer who grew the organic lettuce in her salad. As Rose matures along with her вЂњgift,вЂќ she learns about the peculiar history of her family and gains insight into her odd brother Joseph, who suffers, too, but in a wholly different manner.