In Aimee Bender’s second novel, Rose Edelstein discovers, on her ninth birthday, that she can taste emotions in what she eats. She must then navigate a strange world where feelings she does not yet understand shape how she views her family, friends, and countless strangers. The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake (Anchor, $15) is a lovely and haunting story; Bender’s characters are endearingly human in the face of abnormal circumstances.
With each succeeding chapter, as Jennifer Egan takes ever more formalistic, stylistic, and narrative tacks and risks, A Visit From The Goon Squad (Anchor, $14.95) builds like a good mix tape: each song very different, but adding meaning to what comes before. Egan’s meditation on “time and music” darts through the music biz, PR, and journalism from the 1970s to the near future, with both stand-alone riffs and exhilarating convergences throughout. Each of the thirteen chapters is different in tone, with a different protagonist; the highlight for me is the penultimate, “Great Rock and Roll Pauses,” written by a twelve-year-old character in PowerPoint charts—it’s unforgettable. The book just won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; it was on nearly everyone’s 2010 Top Ten list, and deservedly so.
Citrus County (McSweeney’s, $14) is a story of disaffected American teenagers and young love, but if you think you’ve read this story before, think again. John Brandon’s humid, overgrown, idiosyncratic vision of dystopic Florida suburbia finds Toby, a likeable but deeply flawed loner, Mr. Hibma, a geography teacher who hates teaching, and Shelby, just moved to the area with her father and sister, caught up in a chain of events brought upon them by one person’s impulsive act. Strong characters, quirky observations, and solid writing make this a standout novel and Brandon an author to pay attention to.