22 February 2010

The Language of Sand (#20)

Ellen Block tells the story of Abigail, a lexicographer who takes a rental home on a small island where she will serve as caretaker of a lighthouse (which is no longer in use).  The story unfolds in the aftermath of the loss of her husband and child in a fire, and Abigail's experiences - and the people she meets - on Chapel Isle help bring her back to life.

I really appreciated the framing function of the alphabet and the relatively obscure words that began each chapter.The words are always obliquely related to the story about to unfold, though it was difficult at times to see the ways that the words fit together.

Abigail (or Abby, as she comes to be called on the island) is a somewhat perplexing character; she takes this home because her late-husband had always visited the island as a child, but she doesn't seem to be renting the home to learn anything about him. Nor do the readers ever really learn anything about him, aside from a few memories that Abigail shares when she is alone.  One of the only neuroses she carries from her old life is her understandable resistance to use the stove, since her family died in a fire.

I also really enjoyed some of the supporting characters, particularly Merle and the ghost of the lighthouse. They seem to be more willing to open themselves up and let the reader take a moment to understand life on the island. The main problem with the book was that it seemed unfinished. Abigail doesn't seem to grow, or address her grief, throughout the book, and while it's true that neither of those are prerequisites for a successful book, it makes Abigail seem to be more of a two-dimensional character.

I did enjoy The Language of Sand, even if it sounds like I thought it had all of these huge flaws. It was easy to read, and the colorful supporting cast made me want to care what happened to them.  I just wish that the central character could have had as much life as the people she interacted with on a daily basis. Learning to cope with loss is a challenge, yes, and I really wanted to see Abigail deal with some of the emotions that were clearly bottled-up inside her.

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