Brunonia Barry's impressive debut novel is not set in Kansas, but in Salem, MA, forever infamous as the home of witches and other "crazies". The site of the tragic trials in 1692 is like no other town in the US. Setting her story of a mentally unbalanced young woman in Salem was a brilliant choice, because its foggy, mystical elements are more easily accepted against that most eccentric of backgrounds.
Protagonist Towner (Sophya) Whitney starts telling us her biographical tale by warning us not to believe her. She is a self-described liar, but having reached the end of the narrative (in which another point of view is also provided), I do not regard her as untruthful so much as deeply, seriously deluded, a fearful patient in denial so impenetrable that it requires breaking down with a sledge hammer. Towner's personal and psychological odyssey is a scary one, and the difficulty she experiences in coming to terms with it is fully understandable. This is an evocative page turner of a novel, and it is easy to fall under its spell. This book belongs on the shelf along side the likes of Rebecca, The Catcher in the Rye, and Housekeeping.
I'm captivated by the story of Salem, Massachusetts, its witch trials, and old secrets. I think that's what attracted me to the novel in the first place, as well as the name. I had not heard of reading lace, and found the concept intriguing. So glad that I made the choice to read, as it has become one of my favorites. Towner Whitney returns to Salem after the disappearance of her Aunt Eva, her former guardian and dear friend. While there, she tries to unravel the … more
Salem witchery, fortune telling, mind reading and old secrets - what's not to like? In addition to the tantalizing plot material, this book has been getting a lot of rags-to-riches type hype: first time author self publishes and strikes it rich with a mainstream publisher and international excitement. And truth be told, it's an entertaining, atmospheric story, with its rocky coast, island recluses, handsome cop and old families. Narrator Towner Whitney … more
I really looked forward to reading this book. The excerpts from the reviews were ecstatic in its praise, and the little blurb about the book was intriguing. Unfortunately, I really did not enjoy this work. It's difficult to take a book seriously when the narrator is named Towner and her brother is called Beezer (this is not "to Kill A Mockingbird after all). Reading through this book was like swimming in molasses! It took an ungodly amount of time for the plot(?) to kick in, and by then I had just … more
Barely out of the hospital in CA, recovering from life-saving surgery, Towner Whitney is called home to Salem MA because her great-aunt Eva is missing. Towner reluctantly returns to the town she abandoned after the death of her twin sister, only to discover her great-aunt is dead. As Towner and others grapple with their belief that her uncle Cal is to blame for Eva's death, events in town escalate toward further violence. Towner herself starts to unravel as the secret of her past are brought to … more
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
Amazon Best of the Month, August 2008: Brunonia Barry dreamt she saw a prophecy in a piece of lace, a vision so potent she spun it into a novel. The Lace Reader retains the strange magic of a vivid dream, though Barry's portrayal of modern-day Salem, Massachusetts--with its fascinating cast of eccentrics--is reportedly spot-on. Some of its stranger residents include generations of Whitney women, with a gift for seeing the future in the lace they make. Towner Whitney, back to Salem from self-imposed exile on the West Coast, has plans for recuperation that evaporate with her great-aunt Eva's mysterious drowning. Fighting fear from a traumatic adolescence she can barely remember, Towner digs in for answers. But questions compound with the disappearance of a young woman under the thrall of a local fire-and-brimstone preacher, whose history of violence against Whitney women makes the situation personal for Towner. Her role in cop John Rafferty's investigation sparks a tentative romance. And as they scramble to avert disaster, the past that had slipped through the gaps in Towner's memory explodes into the present with a violence that capsizes her concept of truth. Readers will look back at the story in a new light, picking out the clues in this complex, lovely piece of work. --Mari Malcolm