The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is not a novel I read; I listened to the story in audiobook form. The narrator, who delivered a five-star performance, is Gabra Zackman. It is USD 13.99 in Kindle form on Amazon. I found the audiobook on Scribd as part of my subscription.
Unable to multitask, I am not a big fan of audiobooks. It is difficult to pay attention and not drift off and consider how I am going to do all the mundane tasks I should be doing rather than listen to an audiobook. That didn’t happen with this book. I was hooked immediately; my attention did not wander. I believe a lot of that was because of the excellent narration.
A story of Emmeline from birth as she struggles to come into her own as a well-adjusted person could be a story about any of us. Readers can decide if she succeeded by the end of the story. There are many twists in the story because the beginning is twisted. When the reader (in my case listener) first meets Emmeline, she is on an island that is populated by no one other than her father and Emmeline. Whether the island is deserted, or their part of the island is so isolated no others have tried to navigate the approach channel is unclear, but the effect is the same. Emmeline, in memory from age five, and her father live a hermit’s life.
This story is about memory and induced memory. Here is what Emmeline did not know. Her father, John Hartfeld, had created a machine that could capture scents. Once achieved, Hartfeld could bottle them. Customers who purchased them could then recapture pleasant memories as they opened the bottle and inhaled the scents. Things worked well, Hartfeld and wife Victoria formed a company. The product sold well initially, but the smells did not have the permanence Hartfeld predicted. There was a backlash from the public, the company failed, and Hartfeld decided to run away from publicity and society. He took Emmeline with him.
Here is what Emmeline knew. She was living on an island with her father. John never talked with her about her mother, dismissing her as gone. Her father homeschooled her in sciences, math, and reading. In their home, there were many shelves of bottles with stoppers of different colors. Her father had a machine which he used in conjunction with pieces of paper to capture scents. John was continuing research to find out what had gone wrong. He was failing and, over the years up to the time Emmeline was 12, she noticed her father sinking into a deep depression. What could she do to help?
Emmeline had become aware that someone was bringing resupplies to their island. Occasionally she would get a toy or something she had requested from her father. Emmeline was not aware of how the procedure worked, but she knew there had to be some communication with the outside world. Emmeline’s solution was to get rid of her father’s bottles. John would then be forced to return to civilization and overcome his depression through interacting with others. Emmeline put her plan in action, but things went wrong when her father discovered what she was doing.
The rest of the story is about how Emmeline struggled to join a society she knew nothing about. She enters school for the first time at age 13, plus or minus a few years away from puberty. Emmeline discovers the rest of the world with its amenities such as running water, air conditioning, and telephones. Just as others might read a person’s intentions through body language, Emmeline could deduce intent through smells. Once she inadvertently let classmates know of her gift, she was subject to much ridicule. It should not surprise readers that she would try to find her mother as well as trying to establish the conditions that governed her past. That is one of the exciting stories in this novel.
Another, almost separate story, could be one surrounding the industry of creating scents. This fascinating view of the scent industry might motivate readers to do some research. Are some of the claims of characters in this segment of the novel true?
An audiobook is a right forum for this novel. I won’t try to read it. There is no way emotions of the characters could be so beautifully conveyed as by the skilled narrator of this production. Whether in audible or print form, the novel is a five-star production. I will search for more stories by this author, but I will also view Audible.com or Scribd for other works by this narrator.