When Rose is almost nine years old, she bites into a slice of cake and tastes something underneath the lemon and chocolate. Something empty and hollow, as if the cake is sad, longing, desperate. She knows instantly that this is how her mother felt when she made the cake, even though she can’t fully understand what she’s feeling at such a young age. Thus begins a lifelong journey of sensing the emotions of the people who prepare the food Rose eats.
This was an interesting book with a fascinating premise that reminded me a lot of Like Water for Chocolate, a book I read and loved last year. At first, I really enjoyed reading about Rose’s journey, but after awhile, the book seemed to veer off course for me. The whole thing about her brother (no spoilers here) was really distracting. I thought, at first, that he was mildly autistic perhaps, and that was why his food tasted so strange to Rose. But the reality was far more bizarre, and sort of challenged my suspension of disbelief even in a book about psychic food tasting.
I’m also not sure what I think about Rose’s mother’s story (again, no spoilers). At first I felt so sorry for her, but as time passed, I liked her less and less, and liked Rose’s dad more and more, as if the book was a see-saw and once I stayed with it long enough, I tilted the other direction. There were a lot of the character motivations that honestly seemed to make no sense to me, and I didn’t understand why things went on so long without any movement.
The book takes place over a long period of time, up until Rose is about twenty-two years old, and I just felt like with so much time, there should have been more movement, more change, more growth, and most of all, more character development. By the end, I felt like I’d learned some, but I still felt like everything stayed far too much on the surface, even with regards to the narrator. The only person I felt I really got to know was Rose’s brother’s best friend, George, who (ironically) wasn’t in the story too often, but every time he was there, felt like a real person rather than a character. And even with him, I didn’t feel like I got enough information. I wanted to know more, about all of them.
Looking at other reviews around the blogosphere, I see I’m not the only one who had suspension of disbelief issues and character development issues, so I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my feelings. It’s hard, because it’s not a bad book. I did like it! I just didn’t end up liking it as much as I’d expected to from the premise, I suppose.
Performance: I didn’t realize this until after I finished with the book, but the audio version was read by the author. It wasn’t my favorite performance, honestly. She spoke very, very slowly, so that even listening on double-speed there were parts that just felt too slow. The characters all spoke the same way, with the same voices, inflections, and speech patterns. While that was never confusing – it was written in a way so that you always knew who was speaking – it did get monotonous in places. At the same time, the book was compelling enough and short enough that I listened to it fairly quickly, over only three days, much shorter than most of my audiobook experiences. It wasn’t a bad performance, but it wasn’t great either. Just so-so, matching the book itself.