Monday, May 20, 2019

The Scent Keeper by Eric Bauermeister - Author Interview & Review

Y'all, I had the opportunity to get an early look at The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister. The book is set to be out tomorrow, and if you take nothing else from this post, take this - Read. This. Book. It is mesmerizing and captivating and whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself!

Today is a special day here on the blog as I'm hosting a stop on the tour for the book. I've had the opportunity to do a Q&A with the author, and I'm also going to tell you about why I've been raving about this read to anyone who will listen/read.

This is my first time reading anything by Erica Bauermeister. I took the time to ask her about how this book came to be, as well as her own connections to the topic.

1.       How did you build this story? Which came first - Characters? Concept? Something else?

It was a combination. I’ve always been interested in the sense of smell. It has a subliminal power that I find fascinating. I wondered what it would be like for a child who was brought up of smell as her primary sense. How differently would she perceive our world?

That turned into an image of a young girl living on an island in the wilds of British Columbia. Her talent was extraordinary, her situation deeply unusual. I wanted to see what would happen to her when she grew up.


2.       This story takes place in both an enchanted world and the "real world." How was it to write a story that exists in two places? Was one of these easier to write about than the other?

What a great question! I am naturally drawn to the magical, and writing about the island was a deep and immersive experience. I was worried that when the story left the island we would lose that magic. But what I realized was that Emmeline brought magic with her. She sees our world so differently that she puts a twist on it. Sometimes that is a dark twist, but it is still a different perception, which in the end is what I think magic is. A different lens through which to see our world.

3.       The connection of fragrance and memories can be so powerful! Are there fragrances/scents from your own life that evoke memories for you?

My second-grade teacher’s perfume. My grandfather’s pipe tobacco. The smell of wood smoke on my husband’s warm skin. If there was one scent I could bottle, it would be the smell of the top of my children’s heads when they were babies. When they were nursing and about to fall asleep, the scent would be like baking bread.

I loved that I had some insight on the story prior to beginning. I think knowing the author's influence framed up well the amazing journey I was about to go on with her story.

So, y'all, let me tell you about The Scent Keeper.

This is the story of Emmeline. Her story begins on a secluded island. Here she lives with her father. What she knows of life there and beyond is from her father. He tells her stories, but more than anything, he teaches her through the smells of the world kept in drawers and drawers of wax-sealed bottles that line a wall of their home.

What I loved about this is that it's very much a coming of age, but it's coming of age in such a different way. It bridges so many different worlds, and in each, Emmeline must figure out what is true, who to trust, and where she fits into it all. 

Honestly, y'all, this one had me captivated from the first page to the very last sentence. That's rare for a book to do. It was the story of a fantasy world, but at the same time, it all felt so real because the storytelling so deeply immersed me in Emmeline navigating the world(s) around her.

It's a bit hard for me to review this one because the beauty comes in the revelations along the way. I don't want to give away the twists and turns because that is what drew me into the tale. You just have to trust me when I tell you that you need to go on this adventure. Also, while this is truly Emmeline's story, the plot very much progresses through the world around her. It first begins as she questions the island she inhabits more and more. There is then a time where she has to go out into the "real world" and learns about her past, as well as contemplates where her future is going to be. With that, there are so many feels y'all, and that's why I loved it. You truly feel each feel as truth (and lies) are revealed to Emmeline. 

This is a story that has familiar themes, but the unique nature of the setting is what makes it feel new and different. This is an ambitious direction for a story like this, but it totally works. I also really love how scent is at the center of the story. It's a sense that is so central to our memory, but it's not one I've ever seen a story built around.

A few weeks ago, I even asked friends to tell me scents they loved, and reflected on some I really love, too. Take a moment to take these in with me:
  • Pastures burning in the Flint Hills, a backyard campfire, burgers on my dad's grill, COFFEE, all the ballpark smells in a beautiful mix, literally all the lemon scents, and freshly baked cookies. -Me
  • Things that smell like preschool lunch really get me. They’re usually unexpected, smells that take me back. I really always love the smell of fall too. -Deanna
  • Oh definitely coffee!!! Freshly baked bread. Newborn baby smell. Blooming lilies. Fireplaces burning in the winter. -Amanda
  • Freshly made coffee cake, lighter fluid/charcoal, fresh cut grass, deep fried mini donuts, and Christmas trees. -Jenni
  • Clean laundry. -Kate
  • Lavender! I also love the citrus-y goodness of an IPA. I liked the smell of IPAs for years before I acquired the taste to actually want to drink them. -Lauren
  • Walnut trees are my favorite smell followed by lilac bushes! -Rachel
See, SEE how just reading that takes you to some kind of place. That's what reading this is like. In addition to being about Emmeline, it gave me this feeling of home and wonder and nostalgia as I thought about my own relationship with scent. 

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to have a part in this blog tour with an advanced look at this read, and even more importantly, for allowing me to go on Emmeline's adventure!


More 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.

More About the Book:
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 world--a 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.

Buy Links (or Check it Out at Your Local Library!):

And finally, I couldn't not end a post focused on smell without using this catchphrase.

lisa simpson GIF

Thank you for engaging with my humor. Now, go read this book. Kthxbai.