Rose learns that she has a special gift and that being special can be awful lonely at times. Nine-year-old Rose learns of her gift to that allows her the to know the feelings of close family members becomes apparent when she bites into her mother's homemade lemon cake. Rose thinks she is going crazy because she's always loved her mother's baking. When it happens with other meals her mom cooks she's sure that there is a connection. For ten years Rose explores being different while keeping it mainly to herself.
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She feels all of her mothers regrets, sadness, and longings. She had no idea her mother was so lonely. Rose keeps what she has learned to herself. Around the same time the family starts getting big boxes that arrive through the mail from her Grandma. Her mother's mom should not be living alone but no one is willing to talk about letting her move to Los Angeles to be with Rose and her family. They just know without asking that a nursing home is out of the question. Each box contains odds and ends that Rose's Grandma has collected over the years.
Since this happened around the same time that Rose ate the vision giving cake she knows it is deeper than just her mother, it has to do with family history.
When her mother bakes a pie it is worse. She can feel her mother “feeling” bad and it shakes Rose to the core. She starts bawling, her mother gets scared and rushes her to emergency to see if the doctors can tell her what is wrong.
The nurse asks Rose what happened. She knows it sounds crazy and doesn't quite know how to voice that people's secrets are coming out in the food her mother prepares. She says she no longer wants to eat. The nurse is trained in eating disorders of young girls and asks Rose if she throws her food up on purpose. Rose denies it because that isn't her angle.
The only way Rose can eat without starting to feel the pain of the food preparer is to purchase junk from vending machines and bulk food items made in factories. Even then, she can feel the hurt from workers with too many financial responsibilities and not enough money. Her gift is at its highest when food is prepared from scratch instead of boxed items.
Rose's brother Joe has a best friend named George. Smart with the makings of a scientist George can figure a lot of things out the people ignore in everyday life. Rose shares what is happening to her and George sets out to find experiments that might give Rose some relief.
Rose learns that her brother has some strange things happening too. Joe had always been a moody as a child. He didn't like people to touch him and really hated being away from home where things were familiar. His mother pulled him out of school so much for “doctors” appointments that social services had gotten involved.
George and Rose work on the experiments he has chosen that might help them better understand her condition. George queries people while they taste food and it is clear that a connection exists between the person making the food and the eater. Nothing else is for sure. Rose is ready to give up.
When her mother meets a man Rose can tell from the food. Roast beef and creamy mashed potatoes with chives. When they finished dinner that night Rose asked her mother if she could accompany her on her errands which Rose assumed included a man other than a father. Her request was turned down as her mother rushed out the door a bit giddy.
She doesn't return until ten o'clock. Gone for hours Rose has been panicking. When her father looks at his watch and comments on her lengthy runs he asked her where she's been. Mom plays it off saying the bags are in the car while she gives Rose a wink.
She doubts anyone is on to her. Rose wishes her father would pay attention. His wife is having an affair in front of his face. When Larry calls from the co-op where her mom makes cookies, Rose tells him she isn't available and that she knows. Larry isn't expecting a middle school kid to know about his private affair so he shrugs it off.
Rose confronts her mother after she graduates from high school. Her mom has gone away on a co-op retreat and calls to check in. Rose asks her point blank if Larry her lover is there. Her mother is shocked but tells Rose that he is there. She wants to know if her father or Joe is aware. Rose shares that only she knows and she's known for years.
When Joe leaves for college he gets an apartment after deciding not to attend where he and George were to have shared a dorm room. Being alone suits him better. He disappears at times, it started when he was still living at home. He isn't just gone he has turned into pieces of furniture, his dresser, the chair, a couch. He doesn't keep time when he's away. At one point he is gone for a few years and the family files a police report even though Rose knows that he is furniture and inaccessible. Her father is still trying to understand Rose and the food issue, and asks if Joe has a special gift as well. Rose nods in affirmation.
He shares with Rose his new thing. His body is grabbing furniture when he rests on it. His body sinks into the furniture taking on its shape. His deal is easier to believe even if one misses things on the surface. Joe has never been a hugger and nerdy George is his only friend. Joe doesn't like to be touched and can spend time alone easier than Rose.
Although no one says it directly, Joe is autistic and his mother's favorite. Her loneliness and unresolved hurt gets transferred to Joe. She makes furniture and loves her hobby. Joe needs to be touched and his body molds into the furniture that brings him a degree of comfort.
She doesn't go away to college instead she starts as a dishwasher for a chef who can help her better understand her gift. She works her way up to cook while tutoring students instead of taking the college track. This work is important. Being able to tell a person's feelings by the taste of the food prepare hasn't n been explored by modern science outside of George. Although he graduated college and married his sweetheart he tells Rose when she is ready to learn more about it he'll be available. Joe was his best friend, and he was Joe's only friend.
Joe returns and answers all of Rose's questions. Turning into furniture doesn't hurt, he doesn't know where he is when he's gone. He is always exhausted when he returns. He thanks his sister, without hugging her for keeping his secret.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the Rose being able to grasp the emotional state of loved ones.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Joe opened up to Rose.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked that Rose learned to use her gift.