At the beginning of the book, Rose Edelstein is a friendly, exuberant little girl who eagerly seeks the attention and love of the people around her. At age nine, she suddenly develops the ability to taste emotions in food. She can taste the feelings of anyone who has touched the food since it was grown; the strongest impressions are from the cook who prepared the food for eating. This ability causes her immense pain, and for years she retreats into herself and just tries to survive. At the end of the book, however, she is beginning to learn to use the ability to improve her own life as well as those of others.
Lane Edelstein, Rose’s mother, is unhappy. This is partly because she does not know what she wants to do with her life and largely because of her unsatisfying marriage. She does not intentionally burden Rose with her feelings, but because she is the primary cook for the Edelstein family, Rose learns more about Lane than about anyone else in the story. When Rose is nine, Lane begins working at a carpentry co-op. This is the first job she sticks with for longer than a few months, and Rose discovers later that her longevity partly stems from the romantic attentions of a man with whom Lane ultimately begins an extramarital affair. Rose learns about the affair through family dinners as soon as it begins, and she can taste how much better it makes life for Lane.
Rose’s father, Paul Edelstein, is a highly competent lawyer who does a good job of providing for the family’s physical needs. However, he is a poor communicator who rarely shows the kind of affection Rose craves. He has a bizarre fear of hospitals that is so strong he cannot enter one, even when his family members are hospitalized. At the end of the book, he says he might have a “special skill” like Rose’s ability to taste emotions in food, which he suspects will reveal itself if he ever enters a hospital. He knows his skill would cause him intense pain, and he cannot face the prospect of finding out what it is. In spite of his flaws, Rose loves him and works hard to maintain her relationship with him throughout the book.
Rose’s brother, Joseph Edelstein, is unemotional and withdrawn to a degree that seems abnormal....
(The entire section is 968 words.)