THE CAKE HOUSE by Latifah Salom


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Hamlet, transformed into a teenage girl in Southern California.

Rosura Douglas is haunted by her father’s ghost from the day he dies in the titular house—she calls it “my prison, this monstrous pink dessert”—which belongs to her new stepfather, Claude, and is her new home. Even more haunting than the ghost, though, is how her life changes when she moves in. Her mother spends many days locked in her room, complaining of terrible headaches. Her stepfather buys her lavish presents that she can’t refuse, like a personal darkroom, causing her to feel trapped. And she has strong chemistry with her stepbrother, Alex, who pays attention to her occasionally and ignores her otherwise. When the ghost warns her not to trust Claude, Rosie delves into her stepfather’s shady business practices and finds that he's poured his poisonous words into many ears, including her father’s, leaving her to wonder how much longer the tenuous world of the Cake House can continue. Like Hamlet, Rosie is traumatized and confused, pressured by her father’s ghost and prone to sneaking around to avoid her stepfather. But where Hamlet is red with depression and rage, Rosie’s rebellion is pale by comparison. Salom’s writing is atmospheric, and her conjuring of the many shadows of Los Angeles provides the perfect backdrop for all the skulking and sulking in the story. The plot is well-executed but ultimately lacks emotion, despite the ghost’s desire for revenge. The characters are flat, as though they can’t live up to the atmosphere, though the ending does satisfy.

Evocative writing in a less-than evocative story.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-345-80651-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Vintage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


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