The book was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, a very unusual novel about a girl who can taste the emotions of the cook in the food that she eats (read my review here). Although her unique talent might seem like fun, it is actually a disability, something that restricts her life and sets her apart from her peers, as in this scene where she finds the feelings in her meal so unbearable and overwhelming that she wants to pull out her tongue and never eat again. Of course, it is a very different disability that the ones that we all live with, but her observations on feeling isolated struck a chord with me:
"It can feel so lonely to see strangers out in the day, shopping, on a day that is not a good one. On this one: the day I returned from the emergency room... Not an easy day to look at people in their vivid clothes, in their shining hair, pointing and smiling at colorful woven sweaters.
I wanted to erase them all. But I also wanted to be them all, and I could erase them and want to be them at the same time."
- from The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
These feelings - being torn between loathing and longing at the sight of normal people - are very familiar to me. Even now, after 10 years of being sick and feeling fairly well-adjusted to my new normal, I still feel pangs like this, as I described in a post last year called Exercise Envy. In another post, Living in a World Apart, I described that feeling of being different, separate from the people around me, even when those people are friends; I found my own feelings oddly echoed in the isolation felt by the young narrator of this book.
I think it is interesting how such feelings are so universal, no matter what maladies a person suffers from. It makes me feel less alone.