Bender uses magical realism in a coming of age tale, as young (9) Rosie begins to taste emotions in her food, which can make it a bit tough to keep down a meal. Her first taste of her new talent arrives with an empty feeling when Mom and Dad are going through a difficult time. Rosie must also cope with an older sibling, Joseph, to whom her mother attributes near-mystical qualities. In addition, as her talent has given her unnatural insight, she becomes the keeper of her mother’s darkest secret.
There is no inherent reason I am aware of that magical realism must remain a South American monopoly, or that it should be limited to stories of a particular sort. That would be like saying pencils could only be used for writing essays. And coming-of-age seems a likely fit, given that so much of what we all go through in traveling from childhood through adolescence to adulthood can seem inexplicable.
Yet, the story never really clicked for me. Maybe I was unclear on whether or not Bender intended the magical element to be a stand-in for specific emotions. It is my impression that the literal disappearances in the story stand in for emotional absence, whether somewhere on the bell-curve of psychological pathology or maybe as a symbol of just growing apart. Maybe the author knows a person who suffers from severe depression or autism. Rosie’s increasing ability to taste feelings could certainly be seen as the product of increasing perception with age.
Overall, I was only ok about the book. Bender applies an interesting toolkit here, but I found the product not ultimately as engaging as I am sure the author intended.