sharrona, February 8, 2013 (view all comments by sharrona)
Brunonia Barry's THE LACE READER grabs the reader's attention from the first page, and never disappoints. It's well-written, well-edited, and tells quite a "tall tale" that seems real. Engaging characters -- even the ones the author makes unlikeable -- carry the story along from different points of view. I read it almost nonstop and immediately sent it to my best friend, who quickly emailed "Read one page and I'm hooked." It's clear why this book has gotten the attention that it has. I can only hope it marks the beginning of a very long writing career.
techeditor, October 21, 2011 (view all comments by techeditor)
THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry begins with the narrator, Towner Whitney, calling herself a liar and warning the reader to suspect everything she says. So you have to wonder as the book progresses if any of her first-person accounts are true. But, at times, the book does switch its point of view with the accounts told in third person and from another perspective.
The setting is Salem, Massachusetts. Towner has been gone for the last 15 years but has retuned to Salem because her great aunt is missing. Turns out, though, Towner is there for her great aunt’s funeral.
Now come pages and pages of character description, each reminding Towner of her history with them: her twin sister, who committed suicide and the mysterious reason; her mother, who doesn’t go to the funeral because she’s so solitary and the mysterious reason she gave up Towner’s twin; the circle of lace makers, abused women who her mother leads; a policeman who’s interested in Towner and usually has a hard time coming up with the right words; her brother and his fiancé; her uncle who makes her sick and the mysterious reason; and the rest of the mixture of Christians and Calvinists and witches who inhabit the town.
In keeping with the notorious locale, Towner’s family all have some degree of paranormal ability, at least according to Towner. She reads minds whether she wants to or not. She mostly doesn’t want to. But there it is anyway.
This is a relatively short book, but more than 70 pages of it are character introductions. Little by little, Towner is reminded of the history she tried to forget by escaping to California 15 years ago.
Later, though, THE LACE READER finally gets interesting, then un-put-downable. Mysteries are upon mysteries are upon mysteries, the biggest one being Towner, herself. Another big one is the reason Towner’s twin committed suicide. And there are the mysteries of why Towner’s mother won’t leave the island and why she gave up Towner’s twin. Or is Towner misunderstanding? And did Towner’s uncle kill her great aunt? And what went on between him and Towner’s twin? Or was that just Towner’s imagination? And what went on between Jack and Towner’s twin and between Jack and Towner?
There are so many more questions, and they’ll keep catching you up. But you have to be careful when you try to figure the mysteries; remember, Towner is a liar (and, as you will come to see, somewhat crazy) and the policeman’s opinions are partly based on Towner’s writings.
While I like Nancy Pearl’s “Rule of 50” (read to the bottom of page 50 and then give up if the book still isn’t good), I obviously read further, and it turned out to be the right move. Although Berry’s writing style, divulging facts in a scattered manner, slowly and little by little, was sometimes hard to follow, it also perpetuated mystery and finally sucked me in.
It seemed to me that when the story confused me, when I wasn’t sure whether it was in the past or present, Massachusetts or California, Towner, herself, was confused.
Although Barry tried to wrap up the story in the end, she still left some unanswered questions. You'll have to figure them out. I was still thinking about it long after I finished the book.
The first 70 pages rated two stars; the rest rated four. So I guess that makes three.
Matona, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Matona)
I really enjoyed this book. It started out a little slow, but the more I read, the more I couldn't put it down. Then, towards the end, the resolution blew me away!
stitchy, July 5, 2010 (view all comments by stitchy)
Fascinating story. Couldn't put it down until I reached the last page. The main character's life is defined by her family's history and personality. And yet she is not free of it until she finds out about a secret that everyone has kept from her.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Charming and unusual, but also dark and full of suspense, The Lace Reader is beautifully written. The women of modern-day Salem, Massachusetts can read the future in a piece of lace. With a complex story, original characters, and a magical slant, you will be hooked. Highly recommended — I loved it!
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In Barry's captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. Towner's suspicions are taken with a grain of salt given her history of hallucinatory visions and self-harm. The mystery enmeshes local cop John Rafferty, who had left the pressures of big city police work for a quieter life in Salem and now finds himself falling for the enigmatic Towner as he mourns Eva and delves into the history of the eccentric Whitney clan. Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters' inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[A]n ambitious debut....Unusual and otherworldly, this is a blizzard of a story which surprisingly manages to pull together its historical, supernatural and psychiatric elements."
by Library Journal,
"[A] most unusual and bewitching novel. Highly recommended."
"Fans of Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island (2003), Chris Bohjalian's The Double Bind (2007), and other modern pop-psych mysteries will not be disappointed."
by USA Today,
"The novel's gripping and shocking conclusion is a testament to Barry's creativity. The ending — and its revelations about Towner — are unforeseeable and, therefore, all the more horrific when finally revealed."
by Dallas Morning News,
"Novelist Brunonia Barry has pulled off a major feat with her debut, The Lace Reader: It's a gorgeously written literary novel that's also a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping."
In Barry's captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has returned to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, for rest and relaxation. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived, however, when her aunt drowns under mysterious circumstances.
by Harper Collins,
In the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale, Brunonia Barrys bewitching gothic novel, The Lace Reader, is a phenomenon. Called “[a] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic” by Time Magazine, it is a haunting and remarkable tale told by an unforgettable, if strangely unreliable narrator—a woman from an enigmatic Salem family who can foretell the future in patterns of lace. The Lace Reader was a runaway New York Times bestseller—hitting the top lists in major cities across the country, from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles—and has immediately established debut author Brunonia Barry as a major force in contemporary American fiction.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and eBooks — here at Powells.com.