Passionate and driven Molly is only months away from beginning her education at the American Culinary Institution when she is hit by a car that not only leaves her hospitalized for months, but also damages her olfactory sense, leaving her with anosmia (the inability to smell). The inability to smell leaves Molly unable to taste food, and therefore unable to enjoy food. She does not enter the American Culinary Institute. Instead, she invests her time researching the history, causes and traits of anosmia and olfactory disorders. She goes back to school for a masters in Journalism, and she constantly fights battles against depression when her lack of sense of smell alienates her from the rest of society.
I thought this was a wonderfully penned memoir. Never did I feel that the author took on a “poor me, pity me” stance. She was very straightforward about her depression and how she overcame it, slowly and with the encouragement of family and friends. Over time, Molly managed to regain certain smells, and it was this struggle to identify scents that I found the most intriguing. I loved reading about her trip to Grasse to study with perfume students to learn the intricacies of smell, to her first scent after the accent, and to her self-discoveries about her personality and emotions along the way.
My only complaint is that the book is a mash-up of her blog posts and essays. She jumped around chronologically, so it was somewhat difficult to figure out where she was, especially when in one essay, she was in France, in the US and again in France in the span of 3 paragraphs.
I did enjoy reading about all the research and statistics tied to anosmia and olfactory disorders. This is definitely something that’s not in the mainstream media and certainly not something that really crossed my mind before. Molly’s struggle with food and her cooking ability were very inspiring. Food was her bridge back to her old life, back to the pre-car accident Molly who driven and full of motivation.
The book is equal parts memoir, love of cooking, and study of the olfactory system of the human body. Foodies will enjoy this book because they will most likely run promptly into the kitchen and start sniffing at the spice-rack. Others will enjoy Molly’s travels and scientific research.
Book 25 of 2011