Merriam-Webster adds 530 new words

New words have just been added to the Merriam Webster dictionary from these categories: politics and law, games and sports, race and identity, pop culture, psychology, business and finance, linguistics.

For more information, see, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/new-words-in-the-dictionary?nw2019

Examples of some of the new words are “Dad joke”, “Bechdel test”, and “pain point.”

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The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Naomi’s earliest memory is of herself as a ten-year-old running naked in a strawberry field. She runs towards migrant workers who take her to a sheriff.

Twenty years later, Naomi is a thirty-year-old private investigator trying to find a child who has disappeared while out on a family trip. Naomi has become a private investigator to atone, as she puts it, to “atone” for her past. 

The child she seeks to save, however, has been lost for three years in a remote part of Willamette Valley. There’s no evidence to suggest that the child is alive. The case is inactive and its assumed she has perished in the snow. 

Naomi learns from each case and this case gives her most valuable insight yet. Glimmers of the past return as she finds the living conditions of the girl, a cave in a remote claim.

Denfeld, a former private investigator, writes a taut, psychological mystery with details that ring true.  

A harrowing work of psychological fiction set in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where fur trapping is still commonplace in remote towns. In one such town, a mysterious figure lives in obscurity. Years ago, he had been kidnapped and tortured by someone he calls simply “The Man.”

Could this be mysterious figure be tied to the missing girl?

As Naomi reaches out to her foster bother, some of her lost memories return. After solving the case of the missing girl, called the “Snow Girl,” Naomi vows to solve a more personal missing person case. 

The Butterfly Girl is the second novel in the Naomi Cottle series. 
https://renedenfeld.com/author/

Foxlowe by Ellen Wasserberg

Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg, book jacket
Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg

This atmospheric, creepy novel uses a superb narrative technique. The story is told through the eyes of Green, a young girl who has grown up in an artists commune at Foxlowe.

She has no parents and all is shared equally in the family in a pile called the Jumble.  Green thinks, however,  she belongs to Freya Marsh. Freya, the de facto leader, is an affectionate tormentor who loves and tortures Green.

The family’s actions are compared to a shoal of fish; none of them wants to be “edged” or ostracized. Green feels being “Edged” is worst than taking the Spike Walk–a horrid punishment that Freya invented.

Though the family think they have retreated into safety, real danger lurks through the halls of the ancestral home. Freya takes a baby away from her mother. The Family seems unable to sense the growing moral uncertainty. 

Instead of checking her authority, the family goes along with whatever Freya decides. Thus, when Freya arrives with an infant, the family never questions her origins. They simply welcomes the infant as a new family member. Curiously, Green names the infant Blue.

In order to feel safe from the outside world, the family performs numerous rituals. During the Winter Solstice  they perform the Scattering–a line of salt is poured around the house to protect the house from outsiders. Green, in a fit of jealous, puts the infant outside the salt line, an action that will have serious repercussions . 

Green, Blue, and Toby grow close in the years that follow. The grown believe that they have provided the children with the most magical childhood. They don’t go to school and are not subjected to society’s rules.

The ungrown are not given access to the most basic things e.g. mirrors and cannot leave the grounds or talk to strangers. Green in never given a chance to leave Foxlowe until a tragedy occurs.

Psychologically damaged, Green may never be able to integrate into society.  One of the growns who became a Leaver is determined to give her a chance. Can he help her or will he only make things worst? 

Green is a fascinating yet unreliable narrator in this novel that is both complex and frightening.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

In this novel, two teenagers avoid each other at school yet are also fiercely, strangely attracted to one other. 

The two come from different worlds. Marianne has a much higher socioeconomic status than Connell. Her parents are barristers whereas Connell is raised by a single Mom. Connell’s mother is, in fact, a housekeeper for Marianne’s parents. 

Due to some quirk on her part, Marianne has a lower social status in school than he does. Connell is a popular football player while she is lonely and ostracized.

In spite of this, the two teenagers come together for secret trysts. Terrified, though, that anyone would find out about their affair, Connell treats Marianne coldly. He invites someone else to the Debs.

At Trinity University, the pair become friends and lovers once again. She is now more popular than he is yet they still struggle to communicate. Their relationship continues to be passionate, volatile, and heart-breaking.

After a misunderstanding, the two start seeing other people. Marianne, intelligent yet damaged psychologically by her family, seeks out boyfriends that are cruel to her. 

Connell feels Helen is a better choice until a funeral at his home town bring his illusions crashing down. 

This novel, which was long listed for a Man Booker prize, will soon become a 12-part half-hour drama on BBC3.

The VanApfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

The Missing

This debut by Australian author, Felicity McClean, is a tantalizing page-turner. This exciting novel is a mystery and coming-of-age story in one. Tikka remembers her childhood–she grew up in a small Australian river valley.

One incident irrevocably changed the Tikka’s life: the summer of 1992. Her neighbors, Corrie, Hannah, and Ruth, disappeared one fateful day. The police assume its a missing case but Tikka and her sister are withholding information. Tikka knows that the Van Apfel girls were planning to runaway, a fact she kept from police. Years later, as an adult, she wonders if she made the right choice.

She dwells on the Apfel girls’ disappearance to the point where it begins to affect her mental health. As Corrie’s memory consumes Tikka, she begins to see Corrie everywhere, or at least people who that look like Corrie.

McLean has a delightful sardonic wit. She frames the story with the Lindy Chamberlain case, a woman whose baby girl disappears while on a camping trip.

Tikka stages a skit based on the case for a school event the evening of the Van Apfel girls’ disappearance. Just as it had in the Chamberlain case, the Van Apfel case causes many tongues to wag. Characters jump to conclusions about a male teacher.

Many novels focus on missing girls. Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth focuses on how a Siberian community reacts to the disappearance of two of their own. 

Though it addresses the self-help industry and single motherhood,  Jaclyn Moriarty Gravity Is The Thing, is also about missing persons. 

Other titles about missing persons:
Lippman, Lauran. Lady in the Lake.
Miranda, Megan. All the Missing Girls.
O’Nan, Stewart. Songs for the Missing

Biloxi by Mary Miller

Louis McDonald, Jr always assumed he would inherit his father’s estate after he retired. He didn’t count on his wife leaving him and his Dad leaving the bulk of his estate to her.

Though he is, at times, an unlikeable character who drinks too much, Louis can also make amusing, wry observations.

His life goes in an unexpected direction when Layla, an overweight mixed-breed dog, and her wacky owner, Sasha, comes into life.

Louis’ plight will appeal to anyone whose life didn’t turn out the way they expected.

His life is peppered with a myriad of inconveniences. For instance, there is a bird that keeps hitting his window each morning. Even though his wife left him, his brother-in-law keeps visiting with left-overs. He is diabetic but can’t remember to manage his sugar levels. 

Louis is an endearing curmudgeon who has a hard time finding the right things to say to people. The only one who seems to accept his failures are Layla, the dog who has entered his life by coincidence.   While there’s not much action, there’s a lot of reflection and humor in this novel.

While Louis is upset when he first learns of the details of the will, Louis realizes he does not really need the money. He has Layla and a chance to reunite with family members he has long neglected.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Bowen’s historical novel, The Tuscan Child, is a gratifying read. 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Joanna and her father, Sir Hugo, couldn’t be more different. After his death, Joanna is startled to find a love letter to a woman in Italy. 

Intrigued, Joanna goes to San Salvatore in Italy, to discover more about her father’s life. She knew he had crashed while serving in World War II but she had not known the exact location, San Salvatore, a hill town in Tuscany.

Though there are no hotels in San Salvatore, Joanna finds a comfortable place to stay. She feels at home with Paola’s family until a strange event occurs. Someone has drowned one of the local men in the well near Joanna’s rented room.

Police think Joanna, a foreigner, is suspicious, even though she insists she has nothing to do with the man’s murder.

Renzo, the son of a rich landowner in San Salvatore, has a connection to her father and the woman he names in the letter, Sofia Bartoli. Is he the “beautiful boy” her father mentions in the same letter?

The novel takes many twists and turns and Joanna learns what’s true and what’s false. 

At the Corpus Christi festival she beings to see Renzo in a new light.  Though she does not trust Renzo, something is drawing her and him together.

This is a charming World War II story with light intrigue and light romance.