Title: The Broken Teaglass
Author: Emily Arsenault
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Hardcover: 384 pages
The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park–all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.
In the maze of cubicles at Samuelson Company, editors toil away in silence, studying the English language, poring over new expressions and freshly coined words–all in preparation for the next new edition of the Samuelson Dictionary. Among them is editorial assistant Billy Webb, just out of college, struggling to stay awake and appear competent. But there are a few distractions. His intriguing coworker Mona Minot may or may not be flirting with him. And he’s starting to sense something suspicious going on beneath this company’s academic facade.
Mona has just made a startling discovery: a trove of puzzling citations, all taken from the same book, The Broken Teaglass. Billy and Mona soon learn that no such book exists. And the quotations from it are far too long, twisting, and bizarre for any dictionary. They read like a confessional, coyly hinting at a hidden identity, a secret liaison, a crime. As Billy and Mona ransack the office files, a chilling story begins to emerge: a story about a lonely young woman, a long-unsolved mystery, a moment of shattering violence. And as they piece together its fragments, the puzzle begins to take on bigger personal meaning for both of them, compelling them to redefine their notions of themselves and each other.
Charged with wit and intelligence, set against a sweetly cautious love story, The Broken Teaglass is a tale that will delight lovers of words, lovers of mysteries, and fans of smart, funny, brilliantly inventive fiction.
The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault is one of those rare books, which cannot be neatly categorized into a single genre. While it is indeed a work of fiction, there is a healthy dose of intrigue, mystery, and the subtlest touch of a romance however the overall theme is coming of age. The two main characters, Mona and Billy, appear to have little in common besides being Lexicographers, quite young and new to Samuelson Dictionaries. Until one day Mona stumbles on an odd word citation, ‘cit’, one seemingly from a book that appears to be about a murder and Samuelson Dictionaries. Mona and Billy decide to embark on some sleuthing to find all the various cits where the story is told. This proves to be a laborious undertaking. Mona, who studied literature in college has her theories and Billy, a philosophy graduate has his theories. Are their separate theories founded on their college backgrounds or something else, something buried under the surface clouding their respective judgments? What is truth and what is romanticized fiction? While the mystery is indeed a thrilling one, this novel is neither a thriller nor a cozy mystery. Arsenault brings the reader into the world of words. Literally, as a former lexicographer, Arsenault brings her readers into the world of words and those who deal with words day in and day out. Her writing style is fresh, witty, and her characters are well defined. The Broken Teaglass is not only a believable story, it is superbly written in such descriptive prose the reader cannot help but feel as though one is in the book. For anyone who loves words, ponders the why and how of words or is looking for a quirky mystery, this novel is bound to prove an excellent fit.
About the Author:
Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa. She now lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband. You can visit Emily Arsenault’s website.
Visit the Virtual Book Tour of The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault here.
I received a copy of The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault from Pump Up Your Book Promotion as part of the tour. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.