Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Broken Teaglass

I wasn't an English major, but most of my friends were. I did take linguistic anthropology as well as Greek and Latin medical terminology. I love to look up words and find out etymologies. At one point I read Merriam-Webster's website updates religiously, and actually I don't know why I ever stopped. Also, I LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY.

The Broken Teaglass feels like a book that was tailor made for my friends, my Mom, and my co-workers to all read and discuss in some giant cross country book group.
The Broken Teaglass: A Novel The Broken Teaglass: A Novel by Emily Arsenault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Billy Webb has just taken a position at the largest dictionary company in the US. Unfortunately the company is in the armpit of Massachusetts, but Billy is gung-ho about his first job out of college. The job is about as exciting as one might expect. His first day of training consists of reading all of the "front matter" of the dictionary. His coworkers field phone calls about Scrabble fights, and none of them talks to any other lexicographer much, until Mona talks to him. Mona is about Billy's age and has been working at the dictionary company for about a year when Billy starts. Together they find a couple of fishy "cits" or "citations"--examples of words in actual use-- in the dictionary's files. The fishy citations alert Billy and Mona to something that must have happened at the dictionary company in the past, something that might have involved an actual corpse. They dig deeper and look for more of the citations...and it doesn't take long before they find them.

This book is fabulous.The plot is fabulous, the characters are fabulous, the setting is somehow both boring and fabulous. The plot has a few twists and turns and surprises, but it's also so easy to just enjoy the simple straightforward path to solving the mystery. And, Billy was a high school football player who majored in philosophy. Mona has her own conflict of identity. At times she seemed on the verge of being Billy's manic pixie dream girl, but it blessedly never happens. Even the side and peripheral characters have interesting and complex lives that the reader at least gets to sample. The Broken Teaglass is a book you want to pull quotes from for Twitter, or your Gmail or Skype or Facebook status updates.

This book seems handcrafted for all the wordsmiths, writers, cross-word lovers, Scrabble-players, English majors, etymologists, etc. But, even if you aren't all those things the mystery may well suck you in anyway. And Mom, this is a book I think you need to read.

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