More Like 72-Hour Book Club

It's time, belatedly, to reflect on my reading of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, which I read as part of the most recent 24-Hour Book Club. The fictional narrator, Rose, writes a biography of her family life after she discovers that she feels the feelings of the people who make the food she eats. It's empathy in the extreme sense, that is, Rose actually feels the same feelings of others rather than "simply" being able to recognize them in others. We don't know when the novel is set, though we do get a clue. The novel left me more with questions than answers.

(If some of the text below looks like gibberish, that's because it contain spoilers, and if you've read the book and/or you're curious, use ROT-13 to decode them.)

  • Can a 9-year-old girl really recall, or experience as viscerally, as much and so vividly in a day as our Rose does?
  • What does it mean that her mother went on a work retreat to Canada (and on the opposite coast) for a week and not somewhere within the continental U.S.? Qbrf vg zrna gung fur jnagf gb "trg njnl" yvxr ure fba qbrf crevbqvpnyyl?
  • Why doesn't the father ever confirm or refute the idea that hcba ragrevat n ubfcvgny, ur'yy svaq bhg jung uvf frperg cbjre vf? Wouldn't finding out answer a lot of questions he had about himself and his family? Or maybe they would raise too many other ones.

The family lives near the Fairfax District in Los Angeles, which I coincidentally read about the week previous to reading this book at A Los Angeles Primer. That means that if I ever spend longer than a few days in L.A., that I'll have to make a pilgrimage. One scene of the book, when Rose learns to drive a car, details the route she and her father take. Has anybody mapped it out yet?

The 24-Hour Book Club is a self-organizing group of people who agree to read the selected book all on the same day and share their thoughts. According to the ReadMore iPhone app, the first book of the club (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan; my highlights) took me 7 1/2 hours to read over 3 days. The second book (Both Flesh and Not: Essays by David Foster Wallace; my highlights) I devoured within the allotted day, skipping the word definitions in between essays. ReadMore tells me that I spent 5 hours and 38 minutes reading the third book (my highlights), and just like the first book, over the course of 3 days. It's safe to say that I can't binge-read a book within a single day, and that The 24-Hour Book Club is, for me, more like the 72-Hour Book Club. The next day is fast approaching, and all signs point to that being a travel day, finding me on trains, planes and maybe even an automobile.

Resources I consulted (after reading the book):

Some highlights I shared in "real time":