Looking Anew at Words

I used to be a big fan of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. Our company librarian, Jean Peters, would bring it in to me every Monday. Eventually, Jean retired. Then, the office subscription was canceled. I miss it on paper, though, and as my vocabulary sometimes becomes a slippery thing, I fear that lack of stimulation. How lovely to discover Ellen Block’s The Language of Sand (Bantam. 2010. ISBN 9780440245759. pap. $15; ebook 9780553907612).

Ellen Block's latest novel

Lexicographer Abigail Harker, recently widowed and childless following a fire, comes to Chapel Isle off the coast of North Carolina to tend the no-longer-operational lighthouse.

Much about the condition of the caretaker’s cottage is misrepresented, as Abigail (suddenly Abby to everyone she meets) begins to second (and third) guess her decision to escape her sorrows in the place that drew her late husband as a boy. As an outsider, she talks out loud to herself more than to her new neighbors. Suddenly, language‚ her primary currency‚ held a lesser value. Yet readers gain so much, as each chapter begins with a definition of a word that might not come trippingly to the tongue or the mind: conatus, novation, operose, ruction. This beautifully written novel makes readers consider the many ways people communicate and how the right words can make all the difference.

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"