Aimee Bender's latest novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, is no longer on the bestseller lists, but we still can't keep it on the shelves. All three copies are currently checked out. Which pleases me, as Bender is a wildly inventive and singular author deserving of readers' attention. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about a girl with a gift and affliction: she can taste the feelings or emotions of the person who prepared her food, whether the ebullient family that runs a local restaurant or her put-on-a-happy-face but ultimately unhappy mother.
The downside of all three copies of the above checked out is, of course, that if you want to check it out today, you can't. (Though you can put it on hold.) But I'm going to argue that there's an upside to this. While you're waiting for her latest book, you can check out her EVEN BETTER FIRST BOOK, An Invisible Sign of My Own, which as I type is currently on the the shelf.
All the strengths of her latest novel are present in An Invisible Sign of My Own, published back in 2000 when Bender was 31: her masterful metaphors, her quirky but authentic characters, her singular use of language, and her magical realism grounded in a desire to illuminate the darker terrain of her characters' lives. The heroine of this book is a young woman with many gifts who, when her father becomes mysteriously ill, begins to abandon all at which she excels and denies herself all that brings her pleasure, with the exception of math: she is an inspired and unconventional math teacher. The book follows her struggles and growth as she deals with her compulsions (which include knocking on wood), tries to help an eight-year-old student whose mother is dying, and starts to fall for a socially maladroit science teacher. Although I enjoyed The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and savored much of it, An Invisible Sign of My Own is ultimately the more satisfying book with a much stronger ending.
So, the next time the book everyone's reading is checked out, check out that author's previous books. Some of them might even be better than the one on the bestseller list! Just search for the author in our online catalog or ask for assistance at the public service desks.
Are there any authors on the current bestseller lists, fiction and nonfiction, whose earlier books you highly recommend? For example, John Grisham's latest novel is The Confession, but what is the best Grisham you've read? Which Vince Flynn thriller would you recommend to someone waiting for American Assassin?