Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Language of Sand-Ellen Block

The Language of Sand
Ellen Block
Bantam, Apr 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780440245759

She remained in intensive care as the only survivor of a house fire that killed her husband and their four year old child. When she finally is released from the hospital, thirtyish Abigail feels adrift and disconnected. Pondering what to do as she grieves her twin losses and feeling a need to leave Boston the site of the tragedy, the lexicographer decides to move to the North Carolina barrier island Chapel Isle where her spouse spent many enjoyable summers growing up.

Abigail accepts the position of lighthouse caretaker. However upon arriving at Chapel Isle, the cottage she rented without seeing is dilapidated. The islanders initially for the most part reject her as an outsider, but soon Abby, as they call her, makes friends with two locals Merle and Ruth, who warmly welcome her. Others quickly follow. As she works on repairing the lighthouse, accommodating the ghost haunting the place, and fixing up the cottage, Abby makes an effort to help Nat, the island pariah with a tragic past like hers feel as welcome as the two ladies did her.

This is an engaging character study of a woman grieving a deep recent loss trying to start over in a fresh location that has ties to her late husband. The cast and the words that introduce each of the twenty-six chapters (remember the lead is a professional lexicographer) make for a fine tale of slowly moving on step by step through the phases of grief (in Abby’s case in alphabetical order).

Harriet Klausner

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