Melancholy is the first word that comes to mind when I think about this book. Aimee Bender's prose is something special, it's so spare and yet she does so much with so little. When I was reading this book I felt like every single sentence was somehow filled with a sense of longing and loneliness and even the happiest clam in the sea can identify with those bitter pills.
The plot is basic magical realism; the protagonist learns as a young girl that she can "taste" people's feelings when eating food. If you've read "Like water for chocolate" your familiar with this idea, but Bender's take is totally different. This book is nothing like the former; it's not a great romance, but rather a stealthy mystery. The whole plot builds to the discovery of a family secret and I couldn't spoil it if I wanted to because it only makes sense in the context of the story... and even then, barely. And yet, somehow this book captured me. I felt how lonely and disconnected the heroine was without her having to spell it out. The combination of family love and dysfunction made perfect sense. This isn't a book about a family that abuses each other but rather they are a group of people that don't quite know how to love. Somehow this theme mixes well with the magical elements. Probably because the focus is not the magical things that happen, it's about how those unusual skills affect the protagonists. Action is secondary to the characters.
I liked this book a lot. It starts out strange and slow and gets weird and mysterious. By the end I was wildly curious about how it would resolve and I feel Aimee Bender delivered on the ending.
I got it form my local library and suggest reading it in Lake Tahoe with Hot Chocolate, Kettle Chips and a sleeping toddler at your side.