“Embracing Emily” is truly a unique work of literature. Although it takes some time getting used to the novel’s unconventional style, which jumps from a whimsical tale based in The Kingdome of Somewhere to Scott’s autobiographical memoir, you soon realize that there’s rhyme and reason to the pattern. As the characters in both storylines develop, the colorful narratives gradually stream into one cohesive idea.
This may sound confusing, but once you get past the first few chapters, it all makes wonderful sense. In some form or another, the fictitious characters who reside in The Kingdom of Somewhere are projections of the self ‘s ego, alter ego, conscience. Before long, the protagonist, a lovely maiden named Jessica, realizes that she’s living within a book and, longing to escape, begins to narrate her own story.
Although at times childishly romantic, The Kingdom of Somewhere is more than just a fairytale. The story serves as an allegory on several levels, and opens up a world of existential questions. It’s almost like reading a dream. As for the novel’s other story, “Hannah’s Life,” I found it hard to keep myself from skipping the in-between chapters to see what happens next.
Born into a strict Fundamentalist Christian family, Hannah sheds her religious upbringing when she falls in love with Lucca, a romantic American Italian. Bonded by their quest for truth, the young couple embraces the liberal lifestyle that epitomized early ’70s America, as well as the hardships of marriage. But when Lucca dies of cancer, leaving behind four beautiful children and a rustic farm, Hannah begins a new journey of self-discovery.
Ignoring the levelheaded advice of friends (although encouraged by their love), Hannah sells the farm, packs up her past and offs to newly independent Estonia with her two youngest daughters. The scene where they arrive by ship into snow-swept Tallinn is a joy to read: “I can’t believe that you would consider putting our stuff in a shopping cart!” Hannah’s daughter exclaims as they wander through the Port of Tallinn. “Isn’t looking like we just got off the boat bad enough? Now you want us to look like bag ladies?” “But we did just get off the boat!” Hannah replies with a laugh.
Anyone who experienced the early years of Baltic independence ‘s when supermarkets didn’t yet exist, hot water was still a luxury and apartments cost little more than a used Volkswagen – will fall deep into nostalgia reading Scott’s account of life in Estonia and Latvia. Her story is inspiring, touching and, at times, hilarious.
Not only does Scott write with honesty and humor, but there’s a serendipitous quality to Hannah’s new life in the Baltics. And it is this, I believe, that pulled me to the very end. (E.C.)