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Book Review: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins


I must admit that I don’t know enough Greek mythology to pick up on all the undercurrents in this book, but I enjoyed it immensely. For 50 cents from the thrift store, the book was a steal and a sure path to sleepiness. A great read, but one I could put down and then find myself thinking about in the interims of life and yearning to pick up again. A unique and unusual experience, for sure. That’s how I would describe Robbins’ writing: unique and unusual yet fascinating and alluring, a beastly breath of sultry air.

The story begins and ends with beets, which Robbins makes quite clear from the start. Beets are the blood life of the characters: Priscilla, living in Seattle, working as a waitress for most of the story, daughter to Madame Devalier, owner of the Parfumerie Devalier in the French Quarter, New Orleans; Alobar, an immortal man who imparts his wise theories on life and love based on a thousand years of experience; Kudra, Alobar’s soulmate who teaches him the power of scent and its connection to the blood of life; Pan, the stenchful god of nature and music who Alobar and Kudra take care of while he disappears over time as people stop believing in him; Wiggs Dannyboy, a famously scandalous yet genius anthropologist who re/connects Priscilla with her family and Alobar.

The story illustrates a solid connection between ancient and modern times, tethered by Earth and time. Robbins deftly created a story to ponder the meaning and limits of life and death and the role love plays as we cope with our physical and spiritual boundaries. The perfume industry formed a great backdrop through which the story unfolded, and I am especially thankful for the education on perfume about which I knew nothing. I will refrain from saying more, as I’m afraid of potential spoilers. If you’re looking for something wild and different, this book is it.