The Memory of Lemon: A Novel. Judith Fertig. Penguin Group (USA). June 2016. 304 pp. ISBN#: 9780425277959.
Clare “Neely” Davis is back in this second novel (stand-alone) with her delightful gift of sensing flavors of taste that match people’s predominant emotions. They flow freely and easily most of the time but not in this particular story as she attempts to plan a wedding cake for a mother and daughter at loggerheads over the final decision. The mother used to be poor and struggling but married a man with drive who created a business that has made them rich; Mrs. Stidham is determined never to return to that hard, cold place and so her daughter, Lydia’s desire for a Kentucky hillbilly wedding is perceived by the mother as horrific.
Neely knows there’s no happy in-between place here so decides to travel to Kentucky to see what she can sense there that can fill the gap for a wedding to please mother and daughter. The story then begins to flip back and forth between the past and present, albeit with too many confusing characters, as we enter another story that has shaped many lives but also been a source of healing that might just be connected to Neely’s past as well.
Another story develops in a very graceful way that adds mystique and compassion to the story, that of Neely’s father, who had turned to drink and desertion after the Vietnam War and is now facing his own demons through the help of the Veterans Hospital. It’s a potent and poignant tale he gradually reveals through letters to Neely and she in turn must learn to deal with her own memories. Forgiveness isn’t easy but must be attempted by those who mature.
Add another level of conflict with Neely’s problems divorcing her ex-husband who seems to enjoy the hold he has over her due to their pre-nuptial agreement. She could lose everything she has built in her business and so must deal with this annoying reality oh so carefully. At the same time her attraction to another man, Ben, just be put on hold until Neely is fully divorced. The question is whether or not Ben will wait for that finale.
All in all, The Memory of Lemon… is a very nice read. Delightful and definitely recommended!