New Girl in Little Cove

By Damhnait Monaghan. (Graydon House, 336 pages, $16.99.)

"New Girl in Little Cove" is a charming book, steeped in the beautiful vernacular of Newfoundlanders. Their lyrical Celtic-based speech patterns and diction are at the heart of this fish-out-of-water story.

Set in 1985, the novel centers on Rachel O'Brien, who comes "down from Canada" (what? she wonders — isn't Newfoundland part of Canada?) on a "mauzy" (misty) day to teach French in the fishing village of Little Cove.

The town is tiny, just 398 people, and everyone knows everyone else's business, history and connections. Rachel also has to contend with the typical small-town suspicion of people from the outside. But she's smart and resourceful, and there's no way she's leaving, no way she's going back to Toronto, which is full of unhappiness for her: Her father has recently died and her fiancé has betrayed her.

Fish out of water make mistakes, of course, and early on — not understanding the culture and language — Rachel proposes teaching a class in remedial English for her students. The suggestion just about loses her the only friend she has.

"Bet you didn't know our linguistic history has roots in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, did you?" the friend asks, furious. "Or that our dialect has been the subject of academic papers by eminent folklorists?"

And he hauls out a "Dictionary of Newfoundland English" and storms off. It's a turning point for Rachel, who comes to view the townsfolk in a very different light.

Sense of place is strong in "New Girl," and you'll learn about the geography, the fishing industry, and the culture of Newfoundland. But best of all, you'll learn a raft of new words and phrases — luh and scut and sleeveen and scuff, and the wonderful origin question, "Who knit you?"