Picks and Pans Main: Books

updated 06/07/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/07/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender |

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite 


People PICK


You are what you eat takes on a radically new meaning in this haunting novel by Bender (Willful Creatures). At 8, Rose Edelstein discovers she has a horrifying talent: In every food she consumes, she tastes the emotions of the people who prepared it. This means encountering hidden darkness, including her own mother's sorrow and loneliness. As Bender follows Rose from youth to postcollege, Rose's skill reveals more fissures in her family's life, such as her genius brother's desperate need to disappear. But Rose also realizes that her brother and her stoic, detached father possess their own surreal abilities-each, like hers, as much gift as affliction. Bender's prose delivers electric shocks (Rose's brain is "a full glass of water I needed to carefully balance"), rendering the world in fresh, unexpected jolts. Moving, fanciful and gorgeously strange, this is a novel that asks the unsettling question: How much do we really want to know about the ones we love?

Peep Show

by Joshua Braff |

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite 



David Arbus, 17, fights with his newly Orthodox mother, misses the sister his parents' divorce has separated him from and tries to believe in his disappointing dad. Braff (brother of Zach) skillfully illuminates the failures and charms of a broken family. "Where do I sleep?" David asks his mom after she kicks him out. That teen longing for adults to act their age haunts long after the final page.


by Avis Cardella |

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



Six percent of women have a compulsive shopping disorder, yet in our debt-denying society, "needing" to shop is considered kind of cute. But journalist Avis Cardella really did shop till she dropped-or, more precisely, blacked out: "I stood in the lingerie department of Barneys ... and couldn't remember how I got there." It's not always easy to sympathize with a woman who'd spend a large part of her divorce settlement on a Gaultier suit. Still, Cardella manages to make "my desire to cocoon myself in the safety of new purchases" moving, if not always comprehensible.

From Our Partners