It is said that the quickest and easiest way to a memory is through the sense of smell – spiced orange tea that brings back memories of Christmas mornings, a strangers deodorant as you walk by them on the street created the image of an old lover in your mind, or the the crinkly smell of dried flowers that recalls every sentence of a book you read years ago.
For Naomi Pratt, a professional ‘nose’, smell is everything – it’s linked to her taste, her perception and judgment of others, memories, attraction and disgust, the bond to her newborn child, and sometimes even the decisions in her life.
Throughout the book my sympathies and sides were continually changing. One minute I would be scoffing at the young anarchist Clay, then pitying him, then rooting for his cause (“First priority, always: no one gets injured. Second priority: don’t get caught. Third priority: achieve the objective of destroying property owned by religious bigots, corporations, and the U.S. government. Disrupt the system to hasten its downfall.” pg 30).
The author, my writing professor at OSU, said at a book reading in Portland that he believes that Clay’s character is the most sympathetic. To me, he was usually tied with Scanlon Pratt, who despite his major flaw (I won’t give it away) had my sympathies for most of the book. Another character who’s plight I sometimes pitied, scoffed, and went along with was Seqouia – the almost too-agreeing force behind the local secessionist group.
My least sympathetic tendencies overall were for Naomi. Although I could relate to her every once in a while, her stuck-up nature and annoying neediness were sometimes too much to bear.
These sympathies however should be taken lightly, they are ever-changing the more I ruminate over the book (which is what you will do even days after reading it). It is a beautifully written book that sheds light on a part of Oregon that dangerously gorgeous. Every character had their justifications and reasons, each one fleshed out so well that I wondered if they weren’t based solely on real people. It’s a novel driven by character and laced with explosions, protests, sex, love, friendship, and community.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and you will too!