Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Review: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Author: Brunonia Barry
Publisher: Harper Collins, July 2008
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Book Source: the library
From Harper Collins:
Every gift has a price . . . every piece of lace has a secret.
Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations. Now the disappearance of two women is bringing Towner back home to Salem—and is bringing to light the shocking truth about the death of her twin sister.
Towner Whitney comes from a well known Salem, Massachusetts family. Not only were her ancestors excellent at smuggling both goods and escaped slaves to Canada, but they are also known for being a little odd. The Whitney women especially, because they could interpret future events by reading lace. Probably not a good thing when you consider they lived in a town famous for burning witches, but Salem embraces their history and makes a nice cottage industry out of it. Whitney and all of Salem consider her mother May to be the oddest of them all, but actually that honor should be reserved for Towner herself. Apparently there was an incident in Towner's past which lends credibility to this suggestion.
Towner comes back to Salem due to the mysterious death of her beloved Aunt Eva, who is a riot. She was my favorite character. Aunt Eva ran a tea parlor and read lace occasionally. She also gave etiquette classes which everyone in town attended. Salem loved Aunt Eva and her loss saddens the town. The entire story takes place in Salem. We meet Towner's family and learn about significant events in Towner's past.
And that would be about all that I can tell you. See, when you come to the end of the story, revelations are made. I can't tell you what the revelations are because it would ruin the story. As a matter of fact, I am still trying to figure it out for myself. Cryptic, I know, but depending on what you think, changes what you just read. If you think A happened, then B didn't happen. Confused yet?
All of the mystery and confusion aside, the characters, setting, and "story line" are what compelled me to finish this book. I would love to visit Salem some day. Most of the chapters are related by Towner, with a few narrated by John Rafferty, the police detective. Each chapter starts with a quote or lesson from The Lace Reader's Guide, written by Aunt Eva. The events of the chapter reflect or exemplify what the quote.
The majority of the story is about Towner, her family and the relationships between them. It seems it was dear old Aunt Eva that held the family together. and influenced the townspeople to be lenient towards May and Towner. Aunt Eva was a gem. There has been a lot of deceit and unspoken words in the Whitney family. However for all their faults, they still love and protect each other.
The setting of Salem I think is what really makes this story. Throughout the book, nuggets of information about the town and its history are told, adding to the overall uneasy feeling of the book. Not creepy, mind you, but unsettled. I think that's what gets me about this book, it doesn't end neatly for me. It leaves me unsettled.
Overall it was an okay read, but I would be hesitant to read something of Barry's again. The ending left me befuddled, and not in a good way, in my opinion. That's all I can say.
My Rating: 80/100