Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Perfect 10: The Language of Sand by Ellen Block

A Perfect 10
Bantam Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-440-24575-9
April 2010
Women’s Fiction

Chapel Isle, North Carolina – Present Day

Lexicographer: An editor of dictionaries

They planned to spend their honeymoon on Chapel Isle. Paul always talked about that summer he spent there; he said it was the happiest one of his life. They talked about going soon, but one thing led to another, and they never made the trip. That was before the fire. Now, Abigail Harker is waiting at Bourne Crossing for the ferry that’ll take her across to the island Paul loved. She’s alone. But she wishes she had died along with Paul and their son Justin.

As a lexicographer, Abigail makes her living with words, but there isn’t one suitable word that will soothe the torment of losing her family. She took the job as lighthouse caretaker on Chapel Isle hoping to free herself from the grief, but when she arrives, it’s to find herself stuck with a year’s lease on a cottage that lacks even the most basic of conveniences. Her first impressions of Chapel Isle are not what she envisioned. Each and every person she has met here has desecrated her name by calling her Abby; and now she’s stuck living in this dilapidated shack with a ghost from 1909.

THE LANGUAGE OF SAND is a phenomenal novel! Although Abigail Harker is perfectly sane, she has a habit of talking to herself and reciting Latin verbs long into the night when she can’t sleep. Abigail’s days have always been based on logic and words, but after the fire, nothing in her life makes sense anymore, least of all the words that usually soothe her fears.

Here, on Chapel Isle, the people are different. They suffer the whims of the sea and the weather, and subsist on incomes derived from fishing and tourists. Denny Meloch, who runs the local ferry, is sweet on Abigail, and the town drunk, Hank Scokes, rammed his boat into the dock, leaving it tilted and uneven, but adding a bit of quirky charm to the town’s gateway. Ruth Kepshaw runs the local diner; Merle Braithwaite, the local hardware store; and a rocket scientist, Bertram Van Dorst, has appointed himself keeper of the town’s laundry. Wesley Jasper is the lighthouse caretaker who died in 1909, and they say he still haunts Abigail’s new home. But the person who drives Abigail nuts has gone missing. Her landlord, Lottie Gilquist, left her in this uninhabitable cottage and is suddenly nowhere to be found.

Abigail’s story is focused and enlightening. Chapel Isle seems to be lonely and desolate, but soon begins to make perfect sense as she learns to use her own strength to conquer her demons. Most of all, Abigail comes to see that all that really matters in life is trust and caring. More than just a story about Abigail Harker, this little island is full of neighborly gossips and overflowing with small town flavor and scenes that are pulsing with life. The dialogue is emotionally charged and the plot intense with drama and mystery, as the islanders try to catch a thief. The story leaves some threads open as we wait for a second novel about Chapel Isle, which follows in 2011. So much is going on here that delights the reader with each turn of the page.

A brilliant character-driven novel, THE LANGUAGE OF SAND is a Perfect 10.

Diana Risso

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