Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

I was pretty excited to read the latest novel from Erica Bauermeister. Her first novel: The School of Essential Ingredients was a top read for me, so I was all ready to dive into her latest project. While her first few novels concentrated on food, this novel explores the world of scent. And I'm happy to say, it's just as magical as I expected. 

At first I was a little lost, trying to figure out the story, and especially the when of the story. I think it's deliberate in this case-not being very specific on a year, a decade. But, I quickly figured out it is contemporary-first tip was a cell phone. But it starts out on a small island; a very small, isolated island somewhere off the coast of...somewhere? I'm guessing British Columbia, but I could be wrong. While this may irritate some readers, I like that it leaves me to decide. All I really need to know is Emmeline and her father are living on a small island, in a cabin, and they are quite content. 

Emmeline and her father have a magic machine in their cabin: it produces bits of paper that have fragrances on them--the scents of moments; memories captured on paper. It's like a photograph of a place, but instead of seeing a picture, you smell that specific moment in time. There are hundreds of tiny glass bottles with bits of paper sealed inside and arranged on a wall in the cabin. Each is a scent memory her father has captured. But as Emmeline grows from a small child into a pre-teen, she begins to figure out that her father hasn't been truthful with her, and her fairy-tale life on the island takes a turn that ends in tragedy and complete disillusion for Emmeline. 

Emmeline's life after the island, living with two dear souls who love her, and take care of her, is fairly peaceful-except for the constant bullying at school. Her gift for scent-being able to parse them out, bit by bit, teasing all the high, low, and middle notes, is highly unusual-but of course it's a cause for bullying. 

I don't want to tell you more, because I want you to read this and enjoy the unfolding of this story. It's so elegantly written; the fragrances of Emmeline's surroundings are so vividly written you can almost smell them. Just how much does scent play into our memories? I know when I smell a freshly lit cigarette, I immediately think of my Dad. It's a childhood memory that will never fade. The smell of freshly brewed coffee always brings me back to my Aunt Judy's house, and our Christmas visits-it always smelled like coffee, and reminds me of love, home, and happiness. 

After a bit of a long start (I couldn't concentrate long enough to dive in!), I settled into this story and then had a heck of a time putting it down. It really is a feast for your senses; I hope you also experience the magic of Emmeline's gift, and her journey to finding peace. The biggest mystery is the unexplained puzzle of her father and her mother. Who is she? Where did she come from? What does it all mean?

A perfect vacation book. It made me long for my childhood stays at a cabin resort in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. We had a cabin and we fished, swam, took boat rides, and had a wonderful time. I can still smell the exhaust from the boats, the scent of the water, and the taste of cold strawberry pop from a bottle. 

Rating: 4/6 for a novel that explores how we build our memories and sense of comfort from scents we hold dear to our hearts. Emmeline is a compelling character who grows from a small child to a young woman over the course of the novel. I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did!

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for your review of this book! I am interested in it as I've read two books by Erica Bauermeister; The School of Essential Ingredients, which I loved!! And The Lost Art Of Mixing last year, which I didn't enjoy as much.