Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.
Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real worlda place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.
Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.
Read an Excerpt
Back before there was time, I lived with my father on an island, tucked away in an endless archipelago that reached up out of the cold salt water, hungry for air. Growing up in the midst of the rain and moss and ancient thick-barked trees, it was easy to forget that the vast majority of our island was underwater — descending down two, three, five hundred bone-chilling feet. Forever really, for you could never hold your breath long enough to get to the bottom.
Those islands were a place to run away, although I didn't understand that at the time. I had nothing to run from and every reason to stay. My father was everything. I've heard people say that someone is their "whole world," their eyes filled with stars. But my father was my world, in a way so literal it can still grab my thoughts, pick them up, and toss them around like driftwood in a storm.
Our cabin was set in a clearing at the center of the island. We were not the first to live there — those islands have a long history of runaways. Almost a century ago there were French fur trappers, with accents that lilted and danced. Loggers with mountainous shoulders, and fishermen who chased silver-backed salmon. Later came the draft dodgers, hiding from war. Hippies, dodging rules. The islands took them all in — the storms and the long, dark winters spat most out again. The beauty there was raw; it could kill as easily as it could astonish.
Our cabin had been built by the truest of runaways. He set up in a place where no one could find him and built his home from trees he felled himself. He spent forty years on the island, clearing space for a garden and planting an orchard. One autumn, however, he simply disappeared. Drowned, it was said. After that the cabin was empty for years until we arrived and found the apple trees, opened the door. Raised the population of the island to two.
I don't remember arriving on the island myself; I was too young. I only remember living there. I remember the paths that wandered through those watchful trees, the odor of the dirt beneath our feet, as dark and complicated as fairy tales. I remember our one-room cabin, the big chair by the woodstove, and our collection of stories and science books. I remember the smell of wood smoke and pine pitch in my father's beard as he read to me at night, and the ghostly aroma of the runaway's pipe tobacco, an olfactory reminder that had sunk into the walls and never quite disappeared. I remember the way the rain seemed to talk to the roof as I fell asleep, and how the fire would snap and tell it to be quiet.
Most of all, I remember the drawers.
My father had begun building them when we moved into the cabin, and when he was done they lined our walls from floor to ceiling. The drawers were small things, their polished wooden fronts no bigger than my child-sized hands. They surrounded us like the forest and islands outside our door.
Each drawer contained a single small bottle, and inside each bottle was a piece of paper, rolled around itself like a secret. The glass stoppers of the bottles were sealed with different colored waxes — red in the top rows, green for those below. My father almost never opened the bottles.
"We need to keep them safe," he said.
But I could hear the papers whispering inside the drawers.
Come find me.
"Please?" I'd ask, again and again.
Finally, he agreed. He took out a leather book filled with numbers and carefully added one to the list. Then he turned to the wall of drawers, pondering his choice.
"Up there," I said, pointing up high to where the red-wax bottles lived. Stories always begin at the top of a page.
My father had built a ladder that slid along the wall, and I watched him climb it almost to the ceiling, reaching into a drawer and drawing out its bottle. When he was back on the ground, he carefully broke the seal. I could hear glass scritching against glass as he pulled out the stopper, then the rustle of the paper as he unrolled it into a plain, white square. He leaned in close, inhaling, then wrote another number in the book.
I meant to stay still, but I leaned forward, too. My father looked up and smiled, holding out the paper.
"Here," he said. "Breathe in, but not too much. Let the smell introduce itself."
I did as he said. I kept my chest tight and my breath shallow. I could feel the tendrils of a fragrance tickling the inside of my nose, slipping into the curls of my black hair. I could smell campfires made from a wood I didn't recognize; dirt more parched than any I had ever known; moisture, ready to burst from clouds in a sky I'd never seen. It smelled like waiting.
"Now, breathe in deeply," my father said.
I inhaled, and fell into the fragrance like Alice down the rabbit hole.
* * *
Later, after the bottle had been stoppered and sealed and put back in its drawer, I turned to my father. I could still smell the last of the fragrance lingering in the air.
"Tell me its story," I asked him. "Please."
"All right, little lark," he said. He sat in the big chair and I nestled in next to him. The fire crackled in the woodstove; the world outside was still.
"Once upon a time, Emmeline ..." he began, and his voice rolled around the rhyme of it as if the words were made of chocolate.
Once upon a time, Emmeline, there was a beautiful queen who was trapped in a great white castle. None of the big, bold knights could save her. "Bring me a smell that will break the walls," she asked a brave young boy named Jack ...
I listened, while the scents found their hiding places in the cracks in the floorboards, and the words of the story, and the rest of my life.CHAPTER 2
THE SCENT HUNTER
After that, I asked every day: "Please can we open another one?"
He'd relent eventually, but never as often as I wanted him to.
"The bottles protect the papers," he said. "If we open them too often, the scents will disappear."
It made no sense to me. Scents were like rain, or birds. They left and came back. They told you their own stories, letting you know when the tide was low or the oatmeal was done cooking or the apple trees were getting ready to bloom. But they never stayed.
Even as a young child, however, I understood that those scent-papers were different, magical somehow. They held entire worlds. I could recognize bits of them — the smell of a fruit, but one more full and sweet than anything I had ever tasted. Or an animal, lazier than any I had ever met. Many of the scents were utterly foreign, however — sharp and fast, smooth and unsettling.
I wanted to dive into those worlds; I wanted to understand what made their smells. Even more than that, I wanted to be Jack the Scent Hunter, the hero of my father's stories, flying through the canopies of dripping jungles and climbing to the tops of mountains, all to catch the fragrance of one tiny flower.
"How did he do it?" I asked my father. "How did Jack find the scents?"
"By following this," he said, tapping the bridge of my nose.
I paused. "How?" I asked.
My father smiled. "You just get out of its way, I suppose."
I didn't understand exactly what he meant, but from then on I tried my utmost to let my nose lead me. I lifted it to every change in the weather, and then checked the smell of the dirt to see how it responded. The salt from the sea was a constant twist in the air, but when I breathed in I noticed how it got stronger when the waves were crashing. I caught a bright green scent, falling through the Douglas firs like a waterfall, and tracked it back to the breeze, the way it moved through the tops of the trees, brushing the needles together.
Every day I was out of my loft at dawn, determined to find every smell I could.
"You're my wake-up call," my father said as I clattered down my ladder. "My lark of the morning."
* * *
We spent much of our days outside. We raised chickens for eggs and tended the fruit trees and the vegetable garden. Even so, the majority of our food was gathered from the untamed portions of our island. I cannot remember a time when I was not a part of this process, and by the age of eight, I considered myself an essential, if not quite equal, partner in our survival.
"Foragers feast," my father would say, and we'd set out into the woods, cedar bark baskets in our hands. In the summer, we harvested bright red huckleberries, and salal berries so dark blue they looked like night in your hand. In the fall, we found mushrooms hiding under the trees — I was captivated by the convoluted morels, each one a labyrinth of nooks and crannies.
"Tell me its story?" I asked my father one day. I pushed the curls back from my face and looked up at him. "Please?"
He looked down at me and thought for a moment, considering the morel in my hand.
Once upon a time, Emmeline, he began, Jack found himself in an enchanted forest where the trees were as tall as the sky. In the forest there was a beautiful sorceress who lived in a mansion made of scents, and when Jack saw her, he fell in love. The sorceress took him to her magnificent house, but once he was inside, he found he could not get out.
"Oh no," I said, shivering into the danger of it.
"Should I keep going?" he asked.
"I won't let you go," said the sorceress, and she led him into a room filled with a fragrance so mesmerizing he forgot the world outside. Whenever he started to remember, she showed him another room, each more enchanting than the last.
Jack wandered that mansion for years, until one day he discovered a room he'd never seen before. When he entered, he smelled a scent that took him back to all the things he wished he'd done, and all the things he had wished he could be. Then he saw a key, hanging by a blue ribbon on a hook next to a door.
I waited in anticipation. I loved magic keys.
And so, my father said, he took the key and opened the door and never went back again.
I waited, thinking there would be more, but my father just put the mushroom in my basket.
"That's not enough, Papa," I said. Even I knew endings were more complicated than that.
"Oh but it is, little lark," he said, and kissed me on the head. "Now, let's get going. These baskets won't fill themselves."
* * *
Perhaps the best place to forage was our lagoon, an oval of protected water, ringed by rocks and fed by a narrow channel that churned with the tide. You could spend your whole day harvesting there. Along the shore were wild onions and sea asparagus and the grassy stalks of sea plantains; under the beach rocks were tiny black crabs no bigger than my thumbnail. The boulders that lined the shores were packed with barnacles and mussels, and the seaweed came in infinite varieties. My favorite was bladderwrack, with its little balloons that popped in your mouth and left the smell of salt behind.
The best work, however, was hunting for clams.
"There!" my father said, pointing to a spout of water that fireworked up from the beach. I raced toward it, trying to get there quick enough to catch the spray and feel it run through my outstretched fingers. But even though I was small and fast, I arrived to find only the smell of salt and a slight indentation in the sand at my feet. I stuck a small stick next to the spot to mark it.
"There's another!" I yelled, and ran down the beach in the other direction.
"Good job," my father said, following the trail of my sticks with a small shovel in his hand. At the end of an hour of running and digging, our basket was full.
Usually, we'd have to save the clams, drying them for the winter, when the dark came and wrapped around us like a heavy blanket. I didn't like winter; the rain turned into a mood of its own, and the food on our plates faded in color until all that was left were dry things — apples, clams, a crackle of seaweed. My father faded, too, and his stories disappeared almost completely.
"Do we have to dry the clams?" I asked, and that day my father smiled his summer smile and agreed to a picnic. We made a fire and cooked the clams, adding some wild onions and sea asparagus for flavor, and ate out of bowls made of abalone shells, with mussel shells for spoons and berries for dessert. Then we sat on the sand as the sky turned the palest of blues, and my father watched the water snarl its way through the narrow channel.
It always made me nervous, that channel. Four times a day the tide changed, and the water started its rush in or out of our lagoon through the winding, rock-filled passage. It was an angry, dangerous thing, eager to chew up anything that came near its mouth.
My father saw the way I was studiously avoiding looking in its direction and lifted his mussel shell spoon in a toast.
"Here's to the channel that keeps us safe," he said.
It did, that much was true. Except for the lagoon, our island was entirely steep sided, its edges a vertical plunge down to the water. Evergreen trees clung to its steep rock walls, their lowest branches sheared off in a perfect horizontal line denoting high tide. The only way to access the island was through the channel. I had seen pictures of castles, towering things, impervious to all below. Our island was a castle, its angry channel our drawbridge.
"It's scary," I said.
"But it keeps out pirates and bears," my father noted.
I had seen pictures of both in my books. I had no desire to confront either.
"Here's to the channel," I said, and raised my spoon.
* * *
Every once in a while, we arrived at the lagoon to find the beach wildly scattered in seaweed, all the way to the high-tide mark.
"Mermaid party," my father declared, and it made sense. The sand was decorated with such abandon that only the most fanciful of creatures could have done it.
"Let's see if they left us anything," he'd say. We'd check behind the rocks and search the huckleberry bushes that lined the beach. Sure enough, we'd find treasure. Black plastic boxes with heavy closures that snapped shut tighter than a scent bottle. Inside were the most marvelous presents — rice and flour, chocolate and coffee. Sometimes there were even books or shoes or clothes.
One day, when I was nine or so, we discovered a particularly wonderful treasure trove — two black boxes, one of them containing a new pair of boots and a blue rain slicker, just my size.
"How do the mermaids know what we love?" I asked my father.
"They're magic," he said, and it made sense, for only magic would be able to find a way through our channel.
We hoisted the boxes in our arms and carried them triumphantly back to the cabin. Jack might hunt little flowers, but we had scored big and heavy game. We feasted that night, but carefully, putting most of our plunder in the pantry. We knew the ocean was a fickle thing, its mysteries unpredictable. It could take as much as it gave. The lingering scent of the runaway's pipe tobacco was a never-ending reminder of that.
After dinner, my father and I read books to each other, as we always did. My father loved the science books, and he would teach me about the weather or the stars or the names of the trees around us. We spent hours looking at drawings of peculiar sea creatures, and flowers and animals that seemed to come from another world.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a picture of a brown animal with slender legs and a little beard on its long chin.
"A goat," my father said.
"Are goats real?"
"Would the mermaids bring me one?" The goat looked quick and smart and maybe funny. A goat could be a friend, I thought.
My father paused for a moment. "You never know what a mermaid will do," he said finally.
"Can we ask them?" We always took the empty boxes back to the beach. Be kind to the mermaids, my father always said, and we'd write a thank-you note and leave it inside the box.
"Try it and see," he said with a shrug. "You never know." The subject appeared to have reached an end. This was how it often was with my father. He could spend hours telling you all about the inner workings of a tree or the weather, but other times, he just stopped talking.
"How about a story?" I asked, taking advantage of his silence to swap the science book for the big, thick collection of fairy tales. Its cover had golden writing and a picture of a princess and a crumpled little man who fascinated me. The fables inside were fantastical, intricate things, filled with girls who slept forever and houses made of candy and lies.
My father had told me that many things in fairy tales weren't real, but my problem was I didn't always know which ones. I knew the woods were real, of course, but for me, living on an island with only my father, the image of two children holding hands was no less extraordinary than the idea of spinning straw into gold. I wondered what it would be like, to hold a hand the size of my own, to know someone else who had more questions than answers. I wondered about a lot of things back then.
"Why don't I have a mother?" I asked my father, staring at the illustration of a woman with long blond hair, a child in her lap.
"Because you have me," he said. He turned the page, and I saw the picture of the wicked lady with the pale skin and dark hair, staring into the mirror. My father hadn't given me a real answer to my question, but he'd offered a reasonable trade-off, I figured — for in fairy tales, where there were mothers there were always witches.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Scent Keeper"
Copyright © 2019 Erica Bauermeister.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Island,
The Scent Hunter,
Part Two: The Cove,
The Secret Cove,
In The Woods,
The End Of Summer,
Part Three: The City,
Also by Erica Bauermeister,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Scent Keeper was way out of my wheelhouse, and I'll admit that I was a little confused at first as to what it was about and where it was going. In the beginning, it felt a little like fantasy, but not quite, although there are elements that certainly stretched my ability to suspend disbelief. As the story progressed, it became more a coming of age tale than anything else. Regardless of genre and wheelhouses, the story did hold my attention, and it definitely had me posing a number of questions. Questions that I wanted answers to. Some of those were answered and some weren't, which brings me to the only real drawback in this book, at least for me. I wanted closure or at least some semblance of where everyone was going to end up. I know Emmaline's intentions, but this one has a rather open-ended conclusion - not something that leads me to believe there will be a second book, more like an ambiguous ending to let the reader decide what they'd like for these characters. That can work in some cases, but I felt like this one deserved more. Nevertheless, the book was definitely worth reading, and I would recommend it to those who enjoy the genre.
I have been an avid fan of Erica Bauermeister since I read her first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients and I was not disappointed when reading The Scent Keeper. This is a coming-of-age story about Emmeline, a young child brought to an unhabited island by her father. She is raised there while being taught how to use her senses, especially her sense of smell. Her childhood is happy, leaving her completely ignorant of life outside of this small island and she is not prepared when she finds herself back in a world she is not equipped to live in. What makes this book special are the lyrical prose and the magical and original storyline. Each sentence is a gem. Read this book for the pure joy of the words. I highly recommend The Scent Keeper to anyone looking for something a little bit different. Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
What an amazing premise for a story that follows a family over generations, using the power of scent and aromas to spark memories and weave that thread throughout the story. Absolute magic. The plot was great and the characters were great. You felt as though you knew them as you were absorbed into their lives. Well done. #StMartinsPress never disappoints! #TheScentKeeper #NetGalley
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is a rare treasures. This story follows Emmeline through adolescents, the loss of her father and her remove from the isolation that she grew up in. Emmeline and her father live on an island by themselves and she has never seen any other people. Her childhood is absolutely magical as her father teaches her all about smells and science. She learns to read the world around her and its changes by the smells that she encounters. The scent of the earth as it warms in the spring and the change in weather as the sea swells and the saltwater fills the air. Emmeline's father showed her love but never told her where they came from or where her mother was. He told her Fairy Tales and he told her "People Lie" but he never told her about himself. He taught her about his captured scents and showed her how his special machine worked. Those little bottles that spoke to her without saying a word fascinated her. This scent machine was an interesting component in this first part of the story. The story then follows Emmeline as she is torn from her island world and taken to a small town. It so overwhelming until she meets Fisher and everything changes. She eventually sets and to find her mother and finds herself in a big city with all its many and varied smells. She learns more about what happened that sent her father into isolation. She learns about herself and she learns and that "people lie". This story was one of the best I have read lately. The book is more than about Emmiline; this story is about people. Relationships are difficult. Growing up is hard. Falling in love can be confusing. All of this is addressed beautifully in this magical story.
As I turned the last page I thought - oh! I was not ready for this story to end. This is the story of Emmeline and her extraordinary gift of scent. From her first memories, she lives with her father on an island like a castle; surrounded by water and sharp sided cliffs that descend only to the ocean. From time to time she and her father venture to the island's lagoon, and the crashing waves outside the barrier rocks scare her. Her father teaches her to forage for or grow all of their food; berries, mosses, crabs from the lagoon, seaweed, mushrooms, and even pine for tea. Now and then magic black plastic boxes wash up into the lagoon - shoes that magically feet her feet, a rain coat, other small treasures; once a goat Emmeline names Cleo appears and becomes her first best-friend. Emmeline's father, John, spins fairy tales from an old treasured book as well as his imagination, and he created a magic wall of drawers, each containing a wax sealed bottle, each with a small white paper curled inside. Now and then her father opens one of the bottles and Emmeline recaptures a moment from their past through the scent released. Emmeline is a unique individual. From her father she inherits her love and knowledge of nature and scent as well as the gift of an enchanted childhood. In her life after the island she learns love, trust, hard work and loyalty from Henry, Collette, and Fisher. In her late teens she finds even more about herself and the person she wants - and does not want - to be. This is the story of magic, mystery, love, loss and coming-of-age. It is beautifully written, as I have always found to be true of Erica Bauermeister's writing. My only complaint is that I wanted more; I want to know what becomes of Emmeline in the next portion of her life!
It has been quite some time since I've fallen in love with a story like I have with The Scent Keeper. Emmeline won me over from the very beginning and I got lost in the gorgeous, lyrical writing. Friends, this is one 2019 release you will not want to miss! For starters, this novel has to have one of the most unique story lines I've read. The use of scent as a plot device was brilliant and enthralling, and it made it that much easier to sink into this story and lost track of my surroundings. I love how it encourages readers to slow down and take notice of the small details of life, because when all is said and done, they're the ones that matter. I can't stress enough--the writing is truly beautiful and breathtaking. I really grew to care about the cast of characters, as well. In particular, my favorites were Emmeline and Fisher, Henry and Colette. Oh, and Dodge--he was a good ole boy. Emmeline is fascinating--everything about her seemed so genuine and real, even when she goes to find herself. Fisher is the kind of boy I'd swoon over, I"ll just leave it at that. Henry and Colette are the best kind of pseudo-grandparents you could ask for--just thinking of them makes my heart swell. And I don't want to say too much, but as for Emmeline's parents, I love what she says of them in the novel's opening lines: "We are the unwitting carriers of our parents' secrets, the ripples made by stones we never saw thrown." The last thing I'd like to mention is the ending. I"m kind of torn on it. I am personally not a huge fan of open endings, even though sometimes it is nice for readers to fill in the blanks themselves. But when it comes down to it, I think the ending here really fits this novel and couldn't have been any other way. I like to think of this ending like the tail notes of a scent, drifting away... Anyway, this novel is fantastic! I cannot recommend it enough. Fiction at its finest, trust me when I tell you that you won't want to miss this one! Its release date is May 21st--preorder now, it will be one of the best books you read this summer, I promise!
Maybe I’m not this book’s target audience. Not only do I have such bad allergies and sinuses that I rarely smell things anyway, but so many smells annoy me and give me a headache that I can’t imagine being so in love with smells. It’s not only that. I kept waiting for more. For a story that grabbed me. Occasionally I thought I was getting to it, but then it faded away. Most of the time it just turned ridiculous. Overall, the characters were inconsistent and mostly unlikable. The plot was unbelievable but not in a good way. Not in the fantastical way I was expecting. If it had continued like the second part of the book and delved into the main character's journey into the real world, I would have loved it. If it had turned into a fantasy based on the first part, I would have liked it. If it had all been like the last section, I would have hated it.
In Emmeline’s childhood, mermaids brought supplies to their island cabin, and scents of faraway places lived in beautiful bottles covering the back wall. Made with a mysterious machine, these scents inspire her father’s tales of Queen Emmeline and Jack, the Scent Hunter. Tragedy thrusts her into the mainstream world, where secrets are revealed and Emmeline must redefine family. Bauermeister portrays a magical land of enchantment from a child’s perspective, and the demise of innocence so well that dear reader’s heart breaks for Emmeline. I was fortunate to receive this beautiful story of never giving up on your dream, and unintended consequences, from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.
Thank you so much to St. Martins Press for providing me with a free copy of this book and inviting me to participate in the blog tour! I’m honestly not even sure where I should start with this book, my mind and body are still trying to process this amazing piece of work. This book has definitely left me with a book hangover and I’m not regretting it. Emmaline lives on an island with her father and it’s the only home she’s ever known. Her dad tells her amazing stories about Jack the scent keeper and has a machine that captures smells and puts them on pieces of paper that go into little bottles. As Emmaline gets older her curiosity about the thousands of bottles grows and after a tragedy happens, she finds herself thrown into the real world. As she tries to learn more about the new world around her Emmaline also must learn about her true identity and where she actually came from. When I first started reading this book I was a little put off. The way Emmaline and her father lived was very odd to me and once the scent machine came into the picture I really started getting weirded out. But the author’s writing style kept drawing me back in and I honestly couldn’t put it down. This book gripped me so hard and honestly left me a little emotional. Everything Emmaline went through and had to learn was so hard and I felt so bad for her. The characters were all so well developed and the relationship between each of them was so different. I loved Fisher and Emmaline’s relationship and I also loved Emmaline’s relationship with her stand in parents. They were all so complex in their own ways but such a joy to read about. This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time and I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to read such an amazing book. Getting to follow along with Emmaline’s journey through self discovery and learning all these new things brought tears to my eyes at times but also made me ridiculously happy at others. I haven’t had a book touch me this way and I felt so many different emotions while reading it. Thank you so much to Erica Bauermeister for writing such an incredible book!
Smells can invoke such nostalgic memories. The scent of vanilla takes takes me back to my mom's delicious cookies, a certain perfume will remind me of a dear, dear friend. Memory smells are such a strong part of my past and I know I'm not the only one who experiences this phenomenon. The Scent Keeper is all about the smells and the memories attached to them. Emmeline is living a perfect life on an island with her dad. It's the only life she has known, surrounded by the scents in all of those little bottles. But suddenly things are not so perfect and Emmeline's life changes. I loved everything about this book starting with, like I mentioned, the power of memory smells. I was fascinated with the idea that scents could be created to influence certain behaviors. This could actually be sort of a scary concept, if you think about it though. I also felt completely wrapped up in Emmeline's life—enjoying the peacefulness of her life on the island and struggling though the turmoil that came after. The Scent Keeper had a magical, mystical feel to it for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It was the perfect escape read for me, as I got lost in the pages of the story. I highly recommend it and I know that you'll love it as much as I did.
The Scent Keeper is all about smells. Have you ever wished you could bottle up a special scent and keep it forever? This story follows Emmeline through adolescence, the loss of her father, who taught her all about scents, and her removal from the magical isolation that she grew up in. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Scent Keeper kept me guessing what might happen from the beginning until the very last page. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something a bit different. My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review
When I read the synopsis for this book I was a bit concerned about whether or not I could possibly enjoy a story that revolved around scents. It just did not seem like something up my alley. But because the book was getting some really positive reviews, I decided to take a chance on it, and I am so glad I did. And guess what? I really grew to love the role scents and people's sense of smell played in the book. It was a fascinating read. Emmeline has been raised by her father on a remote island, secluded from the rest of society. To say he is obsessed with scents is putting it mildly. He has a machine that creates different scents and he has stored a whole bunch of them in their house. The older Emmeline gets, the more she has this feeling that something else is out there although given her upbringing she is absolutely unprepared when certain events thrust her into the real world. I apologize this review is pretty vague but I do believe this is a story that is best enjoyed the less you know ahead of time. You just have to trust me when I say it is a journey worth taking. For quite awhile near the beginning of the book, I still had doubts but soon everything started to fall into place and I was hooked. The way scents and the sense of smell was weaved into the story was just brilliant. I ended up finishing the book in just one night which goes to show how much I liked it. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to read something a bit different. I know this book has been compared to Where the Crawdads Sing, and there are a few similarities between the two, but this one definitely stands on its own two feet. This was a unique story and one worth reading. Take a chance on it like I did! Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
Erica Bauermeister’s novels are sensual journeys. The Scent Keeper is about scent, memory and what they tell us about our past and the people in our lives. It is the story of Emmeline. We meet her as a young girl living on an island with her father. It’s an idyllic life until things change. She finds herself thrust into world so different and yet she tries to adapt. She’ll learn who to trust and find a way to survive in this new life. That will serve her well for what lies ahead on her journey of discovery. Will Emmeline be able to hang onto the important aspects of her early years as the world opens in ways she never expected? During all those years of living with her father on the island – where was her mother? Will her magical relationship with scent feel the effect of all the changes? As Emmeline discovers answers to her questions she’ll come to understand what’s truly important. As I read The Scent Keeper I would occasionally pause to think about the important scents of my life and what they mean to me now. That made for a very personal and enjoyable reading experience.
Favorite Quotes: We are the unwitting carriers of our parents’ secrets, the ripples made by stones we never saw thrown… We humans are almost entirely made of water, except for the stones of our secrets. I remember the way the rain seemed to talk to the roof as I fell asleep, and how the fire would snap and tell it to be quiet… I could feel the tendrils of a fragrance tickling the inside of my nose, slipping into the curls of my black hair… I inhaled, and fell into the fragrance like Alice down the rabbit hole. My father had told me that many things in fairy tales weren’t real, but my problem was I didn’t always know which ones. Cleopatra the goat rapidly became Cleo, but both names fit. She was still young enough for a nickname, but she had aspirations of grandeur, my father said. She ruled us from the very beginning. The woman’s pants hugged her so tightly I thought at first she had blue legs… Looking at her was like gazing into one of those enchanted mirrors and seeing a beautiful, older, far more assured version of myself. My Review: Erica Bauermeister is a master storyteller, an expert wordsmith, and an agile weaver of creative and fanciful tales that transport the mind as well as painfully massage the coronary muscle. I ran the gamut while reading, I was transfixed, intrigued, appalled, frustrated, enraged, despondent, deeply moved, entertained, impatient, brokenhearted, and nearly insane with curiosity; yet through it all, I was also 100% engaged and fully immersed in the tale. The writing was lushly descriptive, evocatively detailed, insightfully observant, and simply beguiling. I have a keen sense of smell and was all too easily slotted within Emmeline’s head. I was instantly taken with and understood her assignment of colors, sounds, shapes, and emotions to corresponding scents. Yet I could never have imagined the sense of carefree abandon and adult encouragement to believe in magic and fairy tales during her rustic early childhood on an isolated island, although I would certainly have reveled in that as a child. The captivating storylines were ingeniously creative, undeniably consuming, and cast with tantalizingly elusive, and uniquely compelling and stunningly clever characters who were a bit unsettling as they appeared peculiarly off center and while most were not dangerous, several were more than a tad beyond slippery. I was reluctant to put this book down for any length of time and continued to ruminate over this consuming story whenever those displeasing tasks otherwise known as daily living rudely interrupted my reading. In sum, Erica Bauermeister has a new fangirl.
It’s been six years since Bauermeister’s last release The Lost Art Of Mixing. Her previous three novels explored the world of food and relationships and I thoroughly enjoyed them so I was curious about what she’d do next. This was a big change from her previous work and for much of the story, I was unsure what to make of it. Outside of YA, I’m not always keen on "children as narrators" in my fiction and it tripped me up here, particularly once Emmaline became a teenager. She grew up on an isolated island with only her father for company. Think of Nell but with one caregiver. She’s extremely ignorant about the world at large but she knows how to forage and her sense of smell informs how she moves through her days. This is all fine up until her father dies and she’s taken in by a couple off the island and has to go to school for the first time. As you might imagine, things do not go well. The sense of smell figures into the story in some lovely, unexpected ways and I have a feeling the way Emmaline and her father feel about scent will influence me for years to come. However, I struggled with the pacing and how easily things worked out for Emmaline, in spite of her naivety. It’s not that I wanted things to go badly for her but the way the plot unfolded seemed unrealistic and it was hard for me to suspend disbelief. I was also hopeful the story would address the mental illness that clearly impacted her father but this was but another thread we never get to see through. Bauermeister is still a talented writer but this one missed the mark for me. CW: grief, death of a parent, domestic violence, bullying Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.
I wasn’t too sure about this book when I first started reading it. I didn’t think that a book about scents would be a good read. The first couple of chapters seemed to cement my initial feelings about the book. Then something happened. The author was able to get me interested in scents. I started to enjoy reading the book. I wanted to know how Emmeline’s journey would end. The main plotline, Emmeline’s search for answers, was beautifully written. I did wonder, at points during the book, why Henry and Colette didn’t tell Emmeline everything. I also wondered if they knew how well she smelled. I concluded that while they wanted to shelter Emmeline. After everything she had been through, they didn’t want to stress her out anymore. Emmeline’s relationship with Fisher was a huge focal point in the latter half of the book. From the first day they met, I knew that they were soul mates. Fisher taught Emmeline how to look out for herself. He accepted her for herself. I understood why she needed to find him. I also understood her feelings when she was why he was fired. What I didn’t think was fair was that she compared him to his abusive father. They were apart for a couple of years. Of course, he is going to change!! But that comparison was stomped out when they got back together. Emmeline’s search for her identity was heartbreaking. She kept getting the runaround from people who should have told her the truth. I kept wondering if she would ever find out why her father did what he did. It did happen, and I was surprised at what was revealed. Looking back, it made sense. Like I said at the beginning of this review, I wasn’t sure if I would like this book. I had never read a book that was centered around scent. But the author was able to make it work. Emmeline was a savant when it came to smells. She more than proved that scents and memories are intertwined. The last scene in the book shows my point.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Scent Keeper. I was glued to the novel through the hard ans sensitive introductory chapters, to the middle growing pains of love and reality, and into the realization filled last chapters. It is a novel filled with a young girl’s growing, learning, collapsing and coming to terms with the realities of her entire life. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
THE SCENT KEEPER is an elegant journey through a life filled with scent. The book follows closely the life of Emmeline from her childhood through her coming-of-age. Emmeline was raised alone on an island with her father who creates bottles of scented paper that he stores. What Emmeline comes to realize is that the scents are memories. As she understands the different scents, she can understand the world around her and the people around her. Her childhood was somewhat enchanted, as she believes whole-heartedly in magic and the stories her father tells her, including about the mermaids who deliver supplies when they need them. Emmeline’s story itself felt like a fairytale with the descriptions lush and imaginative, even after Emmeline enters the larger world. With love and discovery constantly playing a role, Emmeline seeks to understand her father and herself through her journeys. The book is told in three parts, which all seem to grow and evolve in different ways. The first is her magical childhood on the island with her father, the second her time in the small town with Claudia and Henry, and the third when she goes to the big city. Emmeline evolves as does the story, and it ends when she is relatively young (19 or so). I was completely caught up in her journey, but I do feel like the book could fit a younger audience as well as the adult audience mainly due to Emmeline being so young for so much of the book. The prose is lyrical and fits the imaginative setting of the island, which never really leaves Emmeline, no matter how far she journeys. My only complaint about the book is that it was too short. The ending felt sudden and abrupt, like it was escalating to something bigger, which moved out of our grasp. I felt like I needed more, even if not the rest of Emmeline’s life, then something to tie up her life in which I felt immersed. I would also add warnings for physical abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, and sexual harassment. The idea of scent and memory is not uncommon, and this was beautifully woven into the story which had a magical realism feel. I was completely engaged by the lyrical prose and the enchanting feel of Emmeline’s life, and I recommend for people who love fairytales and mystical writing. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.