character at a crossroads and an apt setting for a woman at odds with her own nature, a connoisseur of words grappling with indescribable sorrow.People often wonder what an author has in common with her characters. In this case, my protagonist, Abigail Harker, and I share one main preoccupation. As a lexicographer, language is the foundation of her career. As an author, it’s the lifeblood of mine.In order to cope with her grief and with the possibility of a resident ghost at the lighthouse where she lives, Abigail must challenge the sanctity of language, thereby challenging herself. Her dogged pursuit of definitions has almost eliminated the necessity to feel. However, moving to Chapel Isle forces her to face her emotions, posing the questions: What’s real? What isn’t? and is it words that make the difference?I believe Abigail would agree that words are both limiting and limitless all at once. In the process of writing The Language of Sand, I attempted to display language at its most capable and lush while trying to show its many infuriating inadequacies, a contrast that breeds conflict as well as insight. What are books—and words—for if not that?

READING GROUP QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION1. How did the setting affect the plot and why?2. Would you want to visit Chapel Isle?3. Are there situations and/or characters you can identify with? If so, how?4. Do you feel as if your views on a subject, such as ghosts or grief, have changed after reading this novel?5. If you could change something about the book, what would it be and why?6. What motivates a given character’s actions, such as Abigail’s, Sheriff Larner’s, or Merle’s? Do you think those actions are justified or ethical?7. Which characters grow or change during the course of the novel? In what ways?8. Who in this book would you most like to meet? What would you ask or say?9. Which character do you like the most and why? The least, and why?10. What passage from the book stood out for you?11. Is the novel plotor character-driven? In other words, does the plot unfold quickly or focus more on the characters’ inner lives?12. Did you expect the book to end the way it did or were you surprised?13. If you could rewrite the ending, would you? What would you change?14. Can you pick out a passage that sums up the central theme of the book?15. If you were to talk to the author, what would you want to know?16. Were the characters’ struggles addressed in a believable way?17. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story in this manner?18. What is your favorite scene and why?19. Does Abigail learn something about herself or view the world differently during the course of the book? If so, what does she learn?20. What is the central conflict of the plot? Is it internal to a particular character (a psychological conflict), or is it external, having to do with character vs. character?21. If one or more of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why or why not?22. How would the book have been different if it had taken place in a different time or place?23. What are some of the themes in the novel? How important are they?

ABOUT THE AUTHOREllen Block is currently at work on the sequel to The Language of Sand. She lives in Los Angeles.

The Language of Sand is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

A Bantam Books Trade Paperback Original

Copyright © 2010 by Brett Ellen Block

Reading group guide copyright © 2010 by Random House, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

BANTAM BOOKS and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

RANDOM HOUSE READER’S CIRCLE and colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

Chapter-opener definitions are from The Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition by Random House, Inc., copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1993, 1987 by Random House, Inc. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Block, Brett Ellen.

The language of sand : a novel / Ellen Block.

p.   cm.

eISBN: 978-0-553-90761-2

1. Grief in women—Fiction.2. Self-realization in women —Fiction.

3. Psychological fiction. I. Title.

PS3602.L64L36 2010

813?.6—dc22         2009052876


Table of Contents


Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

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