Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings [NOOK Book]


The author of Walking on Eggshells turns her wisdom to the sometimes heartbreaking but always meaningful bond between brothers and  sisters—a  must-read for anyone blessed with the gift (or burden) of a sibling.

There’s a myth out there that good relations between brothers and sisters do not include conflict, annoyance, disagreement, or mixed feelings. Isay believes this is a destructive myth, one that makes people doubt the ...
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Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings

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The author of Walking on Eggshells turns her wisdom to the sometimes heartbreaking but always meaningful bond between brothers and  sisters—a  must-read for anyone blessed with the gift (or burden) of a sibling.

There’s a myth out there that good relations between brothers and sisters do not include conflict, annoyance, disagreement, or mixed feelings. Isay believes this is a destructive myth, one that makes people doubt the strength of the connection with their siblings. Brothers and sisters may love and hate, fight and forgive, but they never forget their early bonds.

Based on scores of interviews with brothers and sisters young and old, Mom Still Likes You Best features real-life stories that show how differences caused by family feuds, marriages, distance, or ancient history can be overcome. The result is a vivid portrait of siblings, in love and war.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A wise and thoughtful and clinically savvy writer...helps us take notice of how we get on with one another as boys and girls, brothers and sisters." —-Robert Coles, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Children of Crisis series
Library Journal
Vertical relationships (grandparents-parents-children-grandchildren) dominate our thinking about family, but it is really the horizontal relationships with siblings (where there is no natural succession) where there is more conflict—and that conflict can last well into adulthood. Taking care of aging parents and dividing the estate can be grueling; every unresolved issue or petty squabble comes into play once again. Here, Isay offers a short, readable book about sibling rivalry that is not of the how-your-children-should-get-along variety. Isay's earlier Walking on Eggshells cautiously explored how parents react and in fact overreact to adult children and their spouses; here she looks at what she calls unfinished business between adult siblings, recognizing that there may have been years of conflict and competition, which makes affection and companionship as adults difficult. VERDICT An editor for over 40 years, Isay is no stranger to issues of family psychology, having worked with Mary Pipher and Rachel Simmons, and she uses her knowledge well. This is a very thoughtful and helpful book, one enhanced by anecdotes and images but offering no easy answers. There is much to savor here.—Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385532594
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 675,405
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

JANE ISAY has been an editor for over forty years. She discovered Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia and edited such nonfiction classics as Praying for Sheetrock and Friday Night Lights. She lives in New York City, not too far from her children and grandchildren.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt



I watch my three-and-a-half-year-old grandson dealing with his baby sister. He tells me he loves her and misses her when he stays over at my house. I think it's cute, but my son says it's a lie. One weekend, the whole family came with me to the shore,and every time Benji noticed one of the adults doing more than just feeding or changing the baby, he would make a beeline for her. "Ruby, I love you," he'd say, rushing to plant a kiss on her head. These airborne attacks of love scared me, because they werea little too energetic. He wanted to hold her hand or pat her all the time, especially when she was on my lap. Benji is an articulate and affectionate little boy, and I could see him working overtime to act like a big boy when he was around the baby. He loveshis little sister, but he does not understand--and cannot really control--the strong feelings she evokes in him. The baby uttered her first laugh at Benji's antics, and she never lets him out of her sight. She's already attached to him. He will be her idoland model, and he will be good to her, I know. But his struggle to get used to the baby, his effort to deal with the unfairness he feels when her needs come first, his attempts both to control his anger and to understand the limits of his love reminded me ofwhat we all experienced as kids. Watching them a year later, I see how his efforts to be a good older brother have created a bond of deep affection.  

Recently I eavesdropped on a young family sitting next to me in a restaurant. The little boy had plunked himself down in the seat that was needed for his little sister's high chair. The father asked him to move to the banquette, to make room for the baby.The little boy was adamant. He refused to change seats. Folding his arms across his chest, this five-year-old wore a look of pure rage. He didn't cry or scream, but the anger and determination turned his little mouth into a dark circle. He eventually relocatedto the other side of the table, but his mood did not change until a kind waitress distracted him and he joined the family meal. Later, as they were leaving the restaurant, I saw the boy take his father's hand and say, "I guess I'll have to marry her." "No,"his father replied, "you won't." "Why not?" "It's against the rules." This little boy was in the process of learning the rules.  

That brunch, with all its conflicting emotions, represents one of countless moments in the lives of kids as they learn to live with the fact that they must make room for others. First children have no reason to doubt their centrality--until the new babyarrives. Second children--the interlopers--rarely get the sole attention of the parents, and they often are greeted with jealousy and hostility by the former titleholder. Subsequent siblings are born into more complicated social situations, and they soon learnto navigate a complex world of loyalties, coalitions, and betrayals.  

As adults, we may remember bits and pieces of those early experiences, but we generally have forgotten the intensity of our feelings. That intensity is the hallmark of childhood, and watching our own kids or our grandchildren reminds us of the amazinglystrong bonds forged in the nursery. When young siblings are unsupervised, the time they spend together gives them the opportunity to experience every imaginable emotion and to express their feelings unfettered by the adults in their lives. Might makes right,older kids hold the power, younger ones snitch and bite; they steal from each other, tease each other, make each other cry, grab each other's toys, pinch each other's arms, and sneak each other's food. In (almost) the words of the Monk theme song, "It's a junglein there." By the same token, children give each other a degree of support and comfort they cannot find elsewhere. A child with a nightmare crawls into his brother's bed; a sister hugs her brother who has been wronged; little soldiers venture into the adultworld to protect their siblings. A beloved blanket is found; a doll is mended; a tear is wiped away. Loyalty and loving acts also form the bedrock of nursery behavior.  

Children are either/or people. They go from "I love you!" to "I hate you!" in an instant. Brothers and sisters evoke powerful feelings a hundred times a day, and they often switch tracks, finding each other alternately a burden and a gift. Having a siblingis both. We were scared by our siblings' actions, and sometimes we shocked ourselves by the force of our anger. We loved them with a power that is hard to recover, and sometimes we wanted to kill them. Learning how to balance positive and negative feelingsis a major task of childhood, as is the ability to deal with our siblings' hurt feelings, rages, and cruelties--as well as our own. These early moments when we expressed love and hatred, laughter and loyalty all happened before we had a full understanding ofthe world, before our brains developed the ability to reason or use logic. This explains both the profundity of the connection and the selective amnesia that many people over thirty have about their childhood experiences. Many of these events happened too earlyfor us to remember and were felt too powerfully for us to fully forget.  

From the hundreds of stories I've heard over the last years, I've found that nursery behavior exhibits at least five of the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony (they stuff their own faces to keep others from getting the goodies), Greed (they want everything theothers have, and will steal to get it), Wrath (oh, the explosions), Envy (including secret pleasure at a sibling's disappointments), and Pride (the joy of outdoing a brother or sister). These sins may be deadly to the church, but at home they aren't. We understandthis behavior as ordinary and expectable childhood responses to conflict and competition. Parents have a responsibility to keep their children from harming one another. But their authority over feelings is limited. It is the brothers and sisters who teach oneanother the lifelong lessons of getting along--or not. Home is the first schoolroom for the education of the emotions. It is a relatively safe place in which to express and experience raw emotions--after all, it's home. This is the gift.  

By the same token, five of the Seven Virtues emerge in these early years: when a small child shows her grandmother how she helps her little sister fall asleep, Love is present; a child's sense of Justice is honed when he and his brothers begin to recognizewhat is fair, even when they are fighting; Courage can be seen in the playground when a small boy defends his older sister from the class bully; Restraint arrives when a girl stops herself in the middle of pulling her sister's hair and wonders what she couldhave been thinking; Hope can be seen in the eyes of a sister, standing on the sidelines of the hockey field, cheering on her special needs brother.  

We are all capable of this mix of vices and virtues, and we experiment on our siblings. Some nursery behavior on a play date would probably mean permanent social exile, but the farthest place to which a brother or sister can be exiled is the bedroom orwhat some families call the "naughty chair." It is no wonder that adults remain powerfully connected to--or distanced from--their siblings, even after the years have softened their memories.  

When we are grown, old childhood feelings can sneak up on us and overtake us, and when we are together time has a funny way of telescoping. Memory flashes beyond our control emerge from a long-ago time when we were trying to make sense of our world withthe limited understanding of children. They are pure emotion, unfettered by reason. Even when we're in our seventh and eighth decades, brothers and sisters can still push our buttons. This is the burden.  

Things can be going smoothly when, all of a sudden, something slams us back to childhood. "She was always judgmental," a woman will think of her elder sister after they have clashed about where to go for lunch. The tone more than the words raises the oldantagonisms, powerful feelings that are thoroughly out of proportion to the dispute. Or a small detail can beam us back to the tender times of our childhood. Visiting my brother after many years, I caught sight of a tiny child's cardboard suitcase sitting atopa tall cabinet. My brother had carried it all through Europe when he was a small boy traveling with my mother, in the late 1930s. They pasted stickers of each country they visited on the suitcase, along with the icon for the Cunard Line. This battered relicof his childhood--I was born after they came home--brought me a rush of deep sympathy for this little boy, who is now over seventy.  

I'm not suggesting that any of us regress to our childish states of being; that would be a disaster. But I have learned that in the process of growing up and dealing with those passions, we may misunderstand our brothers and sisters. We see them throughthe eyes of an adult, but we are experiencing them with the primitive feelings of a child. The inability to revise our childish responses keeps us in a bind. Some people may be able to reconnect with distant siblings by seeing their memories through grown-upeyes and reframing their past. But first, people may need to reconnect with their childhood experiences.      

Men and women in their twenties have greater access to these feelings because they are still in the thick of it. People in this age group, which I think of as the Gmail Generation, are in continuous touch with everybody, enjoying the smorgasbord of communicationsfrom Facebook, to Gchat, to Twitter. Unlike many of their elders, they are still passionately engaged with brothers and sisters. Some of them value their siblings as islands of permanence in a sea of change. "I see my sisters as one of the few constants inmy life," one twenty-something woman told me. "You meet a lot of people you're not going to know for long, and so we increasingly turn to our siblings." Others are enjoying their new distance from the siblings with whom they fought as children. One woman mentionedthat her sister was spending the summer in her town. "Is she moving in with you?" I asked. She shook her head. "I could never live with her again."  

Brothers and sisters in their twenties are still resolving the old conflicts, and they hurt each other's feelings, endure miscommunications, fight, make up, and start all over again. They offer a window onto the intensity of childhood interactions, andwe can observe their efforts to calm down and grow up. Stepping away from the hearth and into the world, these young people struggle to resolve their childish competition and dependence, anger and guilt. They offer a vivid portrait of siblings, in love andwar.  

Competition is the mother of all sibling relations, as we know from the books and the research. It can separate brothers and sisters, and it can also generate growth and change. Stephanie is still in the grips of lifelong rivalry--but it is beginning toease just a bit.      


It's a cold February day, and Stephanie, a tall and slender woman of twenty-three, settles herself on the couch in my study and pulls a photograph out of her purse. It is a picture of her and her sister, who is two years older. They look like twins, withtheir dark hair and enormous almond eyes. She offers a commentary: "I was a little bit skinnier than her always, a little taller, and tanner--and had better skin than her." Stephanie is proud of acing out her sister on looks, and I begin to understand thatthe picture she holds is one of her scorecards. The sisters do not get along. They have been pushing each other's buttons forever. Her older sister was smart enough to employ the tool small children often use when the baby is born and they aren't happy: tempertantrums. What else can a two-year-old do but scream and stamp?  

Stephanie likes to talk things through and chew on problems, but her short-tempered sister is a type A personality who knows what she thinks and doesn't have time for discussion. This older sister, like many first children, is the better student. Stephanie,like many younger children, is the one who always had friends. She is still close to her best friend from elementary school, and they created a gaggle of six girls who did everything together. Stephanie's sister resented being left out, was jealous of Stephanie'scircle, and she felt awful when Stephanie chose to be with friends instead of with her. Stephanie tells two stories that characterize their relationship.  

In the first story, Stephanie is the perpetrator. She and her best friend did everything together. Her sister was crushed when Stephanie went with her best friend, not her sister, to get their first tattoo. This rite of passage for young teenagers is amoment of shared pain and intimacy. It was a slap in the face.  

The second story tells of her sister's temper. "I broke my own necklace, by accident." She was convinced that I broke it on purpose because she wore it sometimes--and she thought that I broke it to hurt her." So far this sounds like an ordinary accessorybrawl, but things got out of hand: "We were screaming at each other and then she took a knife and started chasing me around the kitchen." With the help of the babysitter, Stephanie found sanctuary behind the locked door of her bedroom.  

Everybody has Just So Stories of their childhood. These dramatic stories serve an important purpose. They help us explain to ourselves how we came to feel the way we do about our brothers and sisters and to justify our behavior. Embellished over the years,in the acts of remembering, telling and retelling, these stories are the emotional cornerstones of our sibling relationships. By the time we reach adulthood, they may not be entirely accurate, but they matter because they have a kernel of emotional truth. Stephanieis not only telling me about getting a tattoo and a chase with a knife; she is telling me how much her winning the competition for friends hurt her sister, and about how scary her sister's temper was.  

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Table of Contents

Part I Beginnings

1 Just so Stories 3

2 The Circus Tent 22

3 Why Can't you Just Get Along? 38

4 Looking For Love in all the Right Places 53

Part II Life's Course

5 Gravity Shifts 73

6 When Difference Leads to Distance 91

7 Thick and Thin 107

Part III Making Choices

Trading Places 129

Message in a Bottle 145

Building Together 161

Acknowledgments 177

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Jane Isay, author of MOM STILL LIKES YOU BEST: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings (Doubleday; 5/4/2010)

What made you decide to write about siblings?
I kept hearing bits and pieces of difficulties with brothers and sisters from the people I interviewed for Walking on Eggshells. I began to notice that many people feel that they don't have good enough relationships with their siblings, and this is a source of worry and concern. Over time I came to see that this is another part of our lives where pain is accompanied by silence, and so there's no relief. I wanted to see if I could understand more about the dynamics of closeness and distance, by listening to sibling stories.

Was writing your second book a different experience?
I understood the stages of writing such a book, from listening, to germinating, to drafting and rewriting. And I knew that it would be possible for me to complete the task. But this book was more difficult to write because it took a long time to understand the core of sibling relationships. So I spent days and days struggling with the issues and feeling less than smart. Then a wise friend said to me: "It's when you feel stupid that you're doing you best thinking-you are at work solving the puzzle."

How did your life as an editor help you?
I know how to formulate research and how to structure a book. That was a big help. Happily I can switch hats at will. So first I can be a writer, struggling to get something down on paper, and then I can be an editor, rewriting and polishing until the cows come home. The other great benefit of my time as an editor was the knowledge that other people might have useful advice for me. I treasure the readings from my friends and mentors.

Was the research different?
This time I went deeper into the country, interviewing more people from small towns and far-flung communities. My website and some press interviews made that possible by introducing me to a wide audience. It was fascinating to see how similar families are, although they may seem extremely different on the surface.

OK, so what did you find?
I believe I located the crucible in which our sibling relationships are formed: it's the nursery or playroom, where kids interact without adult supervision. That's where we behave well and badly, where we learn to deal with loving and hating our siblings at the same time. It's where we are challenged to manage ambivalence. I think this is the lesson of siblings: we learn to deal with imperfect situations.

Strong feelings are at the core, even when we aren't close as adults?
You bet. Most of the interviews contained what I call the Just-So Story, a vivid memory of kindness or cruelty that formed the basis of the relationship. We remember these stories because they help explain why we feel the way we do. But if the story is sad or painful, we may at some point decide to look at it in a new way-it's called reframing-and that often improves things. Many stories in the book show the wisdom of trying this out.

Do close brothers and sisters start out that way?
Not necessarily. Some of the worst relationships improved when the siblings switched roles, the younger helping the older, for instance. Sometimes people fight their way back to each other, and sometimes facing life's challenges together creates a permanent bond.

I can't understand how my sister and I could have come from the same family; we have such different values and see the world so differently.
That's a puzzle, but it helps to remember that one of the things siblings do is differentiate themselves from each other. One woman I interviewed had a father who led the local high school band. Guess what? All the kids played different instruments. We naturally grow up to be different people. The paradox is when people who grew up together disagree about fundamental values. They take it personally.

Are relationships different in big families?
Yes. In larger families, brothers and sisters tend to group themselves according to age. If there are many years between the oldest and the youngest, their experience in the family may be very different. In large families, older kids take responsibility for the younger ones, and the younger ones idolize their big brothers and sisters. There's more competition for attention and material things, but they also aren't so intensely tied to the parents, and they rely more on each other.

How can parents get their kids to love each other?
That's a hard one. You can't legislate preferences and affinity. You can teach them something about dealing with conflict, and you can stay out of their fights-up to a point. You can work hard to show each child that you see him or her as an individual. Comparing siblings to each other isn't such a good idea, and neither is "typing" your kids. The pretty daughter may resent the smart one, and they won't be close until they shed their designated roles.

Is it possible to heal rifts that have lasted a lifetime?
Sure, most of the time. As people get older, they may long for some kind of closeness with their siblings. If they can accept their own part in the difficulties, or understand the context of their shared childhood, they may extend a hand and receive a positive response. It takes perseverance to rebuild a broken relationship, and the last chapter in the book tells some heartening stories.

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Questions for Mom Still Likes You Best

As we’ve seen in Mom Still Likes You Best, relationships between siblings are rarely perfect, but they are always complex and fascinating. The following questions are intended to generate lively, thought-provoking discussion among the members of your group.

1. Jane Isay interviewed nearly one hundred people for this work, bringing diverse voices and circumstances to her book. Which of their stories resonated with you the most?

Which ones were surprising, reflecting families that are very different from your own? 2. The book’s subtitle, “Unfinished Business Between Siblings,” brings to mind the kind of hurt that lingers, sometimes for a lifetime. What is the biggest emotional hurdle in your family history? What would it take to for you and your siblings to “finish this business”?

3. Part One, “Beginnings,” focuses on early childhood and its lasting effects. Reading these narratives, what are your impressions of the various parenting styles presented? How did your parents’ definition of a good mother and a good father compare to their parents’ definition? Do these generational differences create conflict in your family?

4. Do you and your siblings have similar Just So Stories—memories of childhood that, regardless of accuracy, help us make sense of our relationships? How does your family handle discrepancies in these Just So Stories?

5. What accounts for families that manage to laugh and find continual reasons to be happy together (illustrated in “The Circus Tent”)? In your experience, is frequent fighting among siblings a bad sign?

6. Isay describes remarkable men and women who rose to the occasion at a young age and became caregivers for their siblings. Who are the caregivers in your family? What sets the caregivers and the rebels on such divergent paths?

7. “Gravity Shifts” addresses the role of in-laws in tipping family alliances. Why is it difficult for some siblings to avoid feeling possessive of one another? Why are new spouses sometimes seen as a threat, while in other cases, they are welcome members of a growing family?

8. Isay recounts many family stories in which money became a symbol, representing everything from resentment to loving benevolence. Do you believe that wealthy families are more likely to experience bitter feuds?

9. In dealing with exasperating differences between siblings, Isay acknowledges that there is no easy solution, but she advises readers to put the shoe on the other foot. What do you imagine it is like for your siblings to be with you?

10. Mom Still Likes You Best contains several particularly poignant portraits of families that coped with disability or tragic grief. Why do some families grow closer in the face of adversity, while others are torn apart by it?

11. As our population enjoys even greater longevity, eldercare becomes a greater concern. Which approaches features in “Making Choices” appealed to you the most, both in terms of how you could care for your parents, and how you would like your family to care for you?

12. Discuss the concept of legacies addressed in the closing passages of Isay’s book. What emotional legacies have you inherited? What legacies will you leave for the next generation?

13. What stories might your family have shared if Jane Isay had interviewed them? If it’s appropriate, consider gathering your siblings together for a recorded interview. Appoint someone to serve as the moderator. Afterward, transcribe the recording and share it with your parents, and with each other, as a keepsake.

14. The author is a renowned editor of many acclaimed books by psychotherapists, such as Mary Pipher’s major bestseller, Reviving Ophelia. Isay is also a mother. How is her book different from those written by therapists? How did her life enhance her perspective?

15. Isay’s previous book, Walking on Eggshells, is a pioneering work that explores the complexities of parenting adult children. In what ways do these books complement each other? What themes recur in the interviews she conducted for each book?

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 633 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 5, 2010

    A unique and gripping tale -- Certainly worth a read...

    Very interesting plot -- I couldn't put the book down until I found some closure. Bender uses exceptionally elegant language and poetic devices. The story is enthralling, albeit a bit dark and (at times) depressing. This book is one of a kind. A very fast read. The fusion of a real-life scenario, whimsical characteristics, and complete fantasy is perhaps a bit overwhelming -- but once again, I couldn't put it down.

    18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2010

    This is very good book to take on vacation. I read it practically in one sitting.

    This is an unusual little book which is told in the voice of a nine year old girl with a special talent. Rose can taste the mood and emotions of the people who have prepared the food she eats. It makes it very hard for her to eat food and enjoy it since she feels the emotions almost as physical pain.
    The book is hard to put it down. You, the reader, want to discover from where this strange gift comes and whether or not it can be controlled. The story takes you through parental relationships, sibling relationships and teenage relationships with all the drama these relationships encompass. It really holds your interest, but, in the end, there are a lot of questions left unanswered.
    Although the characters are well developed, they have holes in their history and explanations for particular behaviors fall short of the mark. Also, the paranormal plays a large role in this book, but it is not given enough importance. It is treated almost as an afterthought and yet the book turns on the supernatural capabilities of the characters. Often there are scenes and major events occurring which seem to require deeper exploration but they are passed over as if they are simply commonplace and are largely ignored by the characters. The disappearance of a brother is dismissed casually, as if, this happens all the time and he will reappear. Yet, it is not a casual disappearance. A father's inability to enter a hospital is dismissed as quirkiness when it is far more than that.
    Still, I would recommend the book. It is also a tender story about people who are unable to express their feelings in normal ways. They all harbor secrets. In the end, the nine year old child is a young woman who finds herself through trial and error as she works out her family issues and her personal ones. She seems the most well adjusted when the book concludes, as she makes use of her gift and learns to deal with her unusual life successfully. She, above all, seems to understand the people around her as well, and is accepting and forgiving of all their shortcomings.

    17 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic stories in an understated tone

    At one point Bender describes popular, accomplished girls in a bicycle club as "living in a miraculous Escherian land that offered only downhills." Rose, Walter, Mom, Dad, Grandparents live in a land where they struggle uphill, yearning to take that Escherian path, but at the crest of a hill, when they've hardened their legs into muscular pistons, they soar into the air like ET.

    Bender's understated tone in discussing the most fantastic occurrences lulls the reader into thinking one way until she almost get whiplash at the turns. I think I may have to read everything Bender writes, distinctive punctuation and all.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2010

    Who decided quotation marks are optional?!

    I was intriqued by the premise of this story and couldn't wait to read the book. About 40 pages in, I kept wondering what was wrong with the book and why could I not make myself read it. (It actually made my head hurt). Besides the characters being dull and unimaginative, Bender's writing style is strange. Why did she choose not to put quotation marks around her characters remarks? This is a pretty basic thing and one that I was taught never to avoid. Where was her editor? I feel cheated and will not finish the book. Save your time and money and do not buy this book.

    10 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    I wanted to like this book BUT, it was so sad and the characters were detached from each other. The parents were self-absorbed and without real feeling. The mother was a trainwreck and an airhead. Father was clueless. The brother was a strange character and I really didn't understand what happened to him. The writing was such that, I just didn't get it. The main character, Rose, was a charming, tortured little girl, but when she grew up, she was depressed and lost. Just not a good read and yes, no punctuation was a real turn off. Buy a good vampire book (Sookie Stackhouse Series) if you want some escapism or fantasy!

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Lack of punctuation makes it difficult to read

    I found the book difficult to read and the storyline unimaginative and lacking. I forced myself to finish the book for our book club and thought the ending was disappointing.

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2010

    Very boring and ridiculous plot! I would not recommend.

    This book was extremely boring and I laboriously read through the ridiculous end of the plot.....if you want to call it that. I cannot understand how anyone could describe this book as "lovely". Bizarre premise for a book, and a complete waste of time!!!

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2010

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    I just can't do it!

    I just can't. No matter how hard I try, I can't finish reading this book. When a friend told me about the book (she had not read it) I was intrigued and thought how great this idea was but the formatting and the lack of quote marks just ruin the reading experience. I have picked my nook up again and again to make an effort but to no avail. :-(

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2010

    Very Strange

    I pushed myself to get to the end of this book just to see how it would conclude. It was a very strange story, and I don't think I would reccommend it to anyone.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

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    An Interestingly strange and haunting book

    I saw this book in the store and chose "Read in Store" on my Nook, then I ended up purchasing the eBook. I found the beginning to be very engaging and fun and it drew me into the story. However, once in, there seemed to be something lacking, but I am not sure what. The story becomes very face-paced and then it felt like we rushed through the action and the characters and then the book ends -- with me wanting more. I wanted more resolution of the story and of the characters and I wanted a more complete ending. Other than that, it was entertaining.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Truly the best read in a long time for me

    I found the characters and overall story line to be quite brilliant. Although I did want more explanation on Rose's brothers gift, it was still enough explanation to get me to grasp it all and love it. It is also written extremely well. Great combinations of fantasy, thrill and emotion to carry you through the whole book. Although I did not find a beginning, middle and end with this book that is another reason why I loved it, it keeps you guessing the entire time. A must read for sure!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2010

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    Great Premise - bad execution

    This was a great idea but without a doubt one of the dumbest books I've ever read. By the end of it I felt cheated of the time I spent reading it and the money from my book budget to purchase it.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    The particular sadness of feeling too much...

    This is the perfect book for the type of person who can literally feel time pass or sense the depth of feelings in a room, and is overwhelmed by that at time while not ever wanting to really stop feeling it. It's thought provoking, heartbreaking, and in a strange way exhilarating.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2010

    Awful book!

    I am an avid reader and was very intrigued by this book. I had read a few positve reviews and purchased it last week. The book was utterly ridiculous. It moved very slowly, with very little dialogue. I made my self plow through to the end because I felt certain that there would be a huge "ah ha" moment. NOPE..Not even close. A complete waste of time and money. Not a redeeming quality to be found.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010


    Liked the idea and plot of story but did not enjoy writing style, or flow of book.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2010

    What a lovely book!

    What a lovely book! The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is the story of Rose Edelstein, a young girl who can taste people's feelings in the food they cook. As she struggles to come to terms with her magical skill she reaches out to the people around her - her mother whose hollowness taints family dinners, her silent and mysterious brother, his golden, sparkling, genius friend, and her befuddled, oblivious dad.

    Aimee Bender has an amazing ability to create intriguing and charming characters and then turn them loose to see what happens. It feels like the people in this book are so genuine and real, their actions so true to who they are, that they must have written they story themselves. Like the magical abilities possessed by the Edelsteins, it is often hard to pin down exactly what is happening and where the book is going. Yet the feelings evoked by her unique writing style are delightful. Reading this book was truly a magical experience! I will never taste food in the same way again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2010

    This beautifully told story will grab you from the beginning, and not let you go!

    To describe a story like this is almost impossible. I'll try to give it my best shot. We see a little girl, Rose, of nine, having her world turned upside down, as she comes to find she has a gift. Or is it a power, or curse? All depending how she comes to see it; to see within another's emotions, clearer than they, themselves, can, and with details that only she knows how to interpret. How does she keep this to herself? What does it do to her, and to her family, over time? We find out.

    Her family: Mother, father, brother, all have their secrets, and as she tastes her mother's food, she starts finding those secrets; They start to come to the surface. She has a grandmother who she's never seen, but sends strange gifts to the family. What do we learn from this reclusive grandmother, by way of these strange gifts? We learn about the family. Do we learn about ourselves in this process? That's left up to you.

    We see family photographs, where everyone interprets their settings as something different. We find more stories within stories, where history comes to us by way of the interpreter. Rose learns who these people are: Her mother, father, and brother. Rose learns about herself, as she grows within this family.

    This writer, Aimee Bender, takes us into the world of part science; part psychology, and part fairytale....and the remaining part is something so surreal, as to make you hold your breath, suspend those beliefs, and enter that world of sadness Rose finds, which makes you want to believe, or cry, or smile, as these hidden secrets start to surface...we're propelled through space, without realizing when, or if, we've taken that next breath.

    I literally couldn't sit this book down, until I came to the end. And when you come to the end, you know it's just the beginning. Aimee Bender is a fantastical, lyrical, interpretive writer. Her details catch you off guard, in a beautiful way; putting those details together, in her own uniqueness, will keep you spellbound.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2010

    Probably the Worst Book I've Ever Read!

    I had a difficult time even finishing this book; set it aside 3 times. If was extremely strange, way beyond belief. Not enjoyable. One of the reviews on the jacket says it all.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2010

    Best part of book is the title

    This book has great potential but sadly a big let down

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    I LIKED IT!!!!

    Nine year old Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon cake and discovers she can taste her mother's emotions in the cake. Is this a magical gift or an enormous burden? From that day on food becomes the enemy. She can't eat anything without tasting the emotions of the person who made it. Factory processed food becomes her menu of choice because it is made mostly by machines that have no emotions. When she eats anything prepared by her mother she tastes the lies, desperation and despair. Food prepared by her brother without tasting how miserable he feels about his life.

    With the help of one of her brother's friends she tests herself and tries to understand the magnitude of this "gift". She tastes many things about her own family, secrets she wished she didn't know, but she also realizes there are some secrets her enhanced taste buds do not understand.

    Again this type of story is not one I would usually read and I think I will have to change, and add books with a little fantasy to my preferred genres. This book was a little sad and depressing in places but the story moved right along and kept the pages turning. I don't want to give the whole storyline away, but I will say it ended sooner than I would have liked. As Rose started to understand her ability and was moving ahead with her life, the story ended and I feel there was a little more to tell. With that said, I did like this book

    To find out more about this author, visit her web page at

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Doubleday Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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