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The Lace Reader: A Novel
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Product Description

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

Every gift has a price . . .

Every piece of lace has a secret . . .

My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time. . . .

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, 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, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."

Customer Reviews:

  • Disappointingly Average - For Young Readers Only
    I'm so disappointed that I didn't like this. I had a very long train trip from the mid-Atlantic to New England recently and thought this book would not only be perfect given the location, but (thanks to the buzz) be compelling enough to make the hours fly by unnoticed. Imagine how disappointed I was to find it was so easy (and at times preferable) to put it down! Wow was this hyper-hyped. It was average enough of a read I suppose... the mystical bits about the lace and the idea of some of the Salem locations were interesting, but I was also stuck on a train and had little else to occupy my time. I'm sure I'd have put it down and never finished it if I'd been reading it at home. I disliked the main character almost immediately and found all the other characters one-dimensional and too numerous. It seemed in need of editing, and the constantly-alternating POV was annoying. In general I felt like I was reading a story written by someone in high school -- the romance was that immature/corny and predictable! I can't imagine any mature woman finding the relationship between the main character and the knightly cop intriguing; it was very "Nancy Drew and Ned" for the college-bound. And the worst part: I knew I was reading some tale within a tale given the first two lines in the book (an adolescent attempt at foreshadowing), so I had to force myself to pick it back up and finish the last quarter of it, only to be proven correct. I can't say this was a complete waste, but it's not something I'd recommend to anyone over 18....more info
  • A Tatting Review
    This story has a little bit of everything from romance to mystery. It delves into personal tragedy with a "sixth sense" climax. I loved it and would recommend to many....more info
  • skip this one...don't waste your precious time
    Normally before I read a book that is on the bestseller lists I read the one and two star reviews on I really wish I had done this before I read this book. Thank goodness I didn't waste money on it out of the library..but I am deeply upset that I wasted my precious time on this junk. It was poorly written and extremely boring. I am sorry I pushed through until the end and had no satisfaction when it finally ended. The characters are boring and poorly executed. Other reviews express this much better so be sure to read the one and two star reviews. I am shocked she was paid so much for this trash. SKIP IT!!!...more info
  • I loved it
    I loved this book! It was a mystery, love story and fantasy all in one....more info
  • Puzzled
    I am puzzled by the good reviews of this book. There really was not much of a story there. Every minor plot, in my mind was left hanging and incomplete. I can't say more without giving it all away but none of it made sense in the end.

    I gave it two stars because it was an interesting read but without much substance....more info
  • Could have been great, but ended up a disappointment
    Another "heard this was so great" book that ultimately disappointed this reader. There were so many interesting pieces that, if pulled together correctly, could have been woven into a great story. The historical aspects of Salem, witches, the seacoast, lacemaking and a beautiful home with a tea room were potential elements for intrigue. The way the story unfolded did not keep my interest and the character development was weak. I felt as thought the author had a secret she wanted to share and tried to tease the reader by giving little bits of information, but it just did not draw me in. Couldn't wait to finish it as I have a hard time putting down a book without giving it the full read. It took me several attempts to get going on this one and I found it to be only so so....more info
  • Good Book
    I was surprised by this book. It had interesting characters, great imagery, and an ever twisting plot that kept me on my toes. This book was so great, I had a hard time putting it down each night. If you're looking for a fast read, this is it!...more info
  • Lace Reader engrosses
    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. 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 that the author will write more....more info
  • Tolerable reading
    The hype by critics on the back cover of this book do it a great disservice. The writing is good, character development solid, and the pacing okay. However, to read the back cover one would imagine the contents to be more exciting, more intense, and more hair-raising than they actually turn out to be. If you like to read slow-paced, character driven fiction and/or enjoy the "chick-flick" genre then you will like this book. However, you will not find an "astonishing end," or "a wild, dark place," or anything "creepy or fascinating" about the book (all things promised on the dust jacket). What you will find is a mix of death, psychic visions/readings, and abused women all combined in a seacoast town known for the eccentricities of its people. ...more info
  • Good Story - So So Writing
    I was anxious to see what all the hype was about this book and, since I love books set in, or about Salem, MA, this was an easy choice for me.

    The beginning of the story hooked me right away:

    "My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time. I am a crazy woman. ... That last part is true."

    As the book opens, Towner, is returning home to Salem and fictional Yellow Dog Island after the disappearance of her Great Aunt Eva, possibly due to foul play. Towner is descended from a long line of psychics who use Ipswich lace to foretell one's future.

    Without giving too much away, I'll just say that there were many twists in this story. I found parts of the story to be a little slow going. In the end, I thought the author did a good job in closing all the gaps.

    A good read overall....more info
  • Astigmatic Reading Lace
    The premise is interesting enough: a back history involving the Salem witches, the curiosity in lace reading ... and two women who disappeared. But the interest dies soon because the novel goes on and on and on and on and on ... like an astigmatic view of trying to figure out a story from a convolution of words and figures. It must be the feeling of trying to read lace ... while groping for your reading glasses.

    The novel could have been more interesting but is a verbose disappointment....more info
  • Disappointing
    Things I liked: Barry has a powerful ability to evoke "place." Her descriptions of the locations were masterful. I especially enjoyed the subtle way that she drew us into the more fantastic or fantasy aspects of the story. I found the premises and settings and characters all quite believable. Towner and her Aunt Evie were especially well done.

    I also enjoyed the way the story flowed along. Its pace was quite well done; I felt neither rushed nor mired down as the story progressed and the elements began to weave themselves together.

    What didn't I like? (and how to review them without spoilers?) By the time the stories began to draw to a conclusion, I was confused, but Barry had drawn her characters so well that I cared what happened to them. Then, unfortunately, the plot twists overwhelmed both the pace of the novel - more or less just ended with a "revelation." I closed the book thinking - truth! - "OK, what was the point of that?"

    The book is worth reading if you enjoy immersion in place and character. If plot is important, the book will even satisfy to a degree... so long as you don't demand that it end - um - logically.

    I suspect this review may not be very helpful, but it may give you a sense of how befuddled you might be when the book ends....more info
  • Poor delivery time
    This product was ordered 4/09/09 and not delivered until May 1. This is totally unacceptable....more info
  • Great read!
    A great read that I've recommended to many! I live in Salem MA and grew up in an adjacent I was already interested by the location of the story. But I was very impressed with the writing and pace of the story. It's a sure winner for me!...more info
  • Lace Reader: A well-crafted story
    I was lucky enough to receive The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry, from a friend's mother as a gift. I'm almost half way into the book, and have found many personally meaningful threads running through the story. For one, the antique lace around which the story is centered brings me back to a textile boutique in the Westminster Arcade I used to frequent in my twenties. I had a penchant for antiques at the time, and collected quite a few hand-made pieces. I remember the owner of the store eschewing the machined lace in favor of the fine handiwork and intricacies of the older lace she offered. It was beyond my understanding how anyone could create such a delicate, decorative piece by hand. Similarly, I've found that Brunonia Barry subtly works fine details into The Lace Reader with seemingly as little effort. I am fascinated by her clever technique of weaving depth into the characters and story line with each turn of the page. I've yet to finish reading the book, but am certain it is well-crafted from beginning to end.

    Jackie Gately
    Marketing, Technical, and Editorial Communications info
  • It made me sad that it was not what I expected; but it was good
    The lacking part of this book was my projection of what the book was about and the lack of lace reading incite, materials, etc really put me off. It is a good story, just not my kinda' story, and very well written with wonderful characters. Local detail was great. My disappointment was my preconceived preception....more info
  • A long slog--with patches of promise
    I wanted to like this book. I read most of it (skipping a little in the middle). But the theme kept eluding me. Was it a diary of an eccentric New Englander? History of domestic violence and child abuse? A love story with confusing flip flops of desire? A updated treatise on Salem witchcraft? A metaphysical puzzle using lace-making as a symbol -- of something?

    Too much work to make sense of it all. I like concrete stories. Unlike others who have posted reviews, I did like the twist at the end. You really have to be into female bonding to get along in this book....more info
  • Couldn't finish it
    I'm stunned that a former screenwriter would start her novel with a cliched, boring dream scene. It was downhill from there, with indistinct characters and much overwriting--scenes that dragged on without making a point. I put it down when I was about 70 pages in, with no desire to pick it up again. This could have been a riveting subject, but it doesn't live up to the promise--by a long shot....more info
  • I did not want this book to end.
    This novel is an Excellent debut. This is a well-written and engaging page-turner. The women were strong and unique Yankees connected by lace and separated by water in the bewitched historical fishing village of Salem Massachusetts. The story intertwined history, mystery, witchery, social issues, cults, religion, and relationships to tell the story of Sophya Whitney's turbulent childhood.
    I loved Brunonia Barry's use of imagery, symbolism and her cleaver ironic twists.
    I wanted another book of hers to read!
    Sue Seery-...more info
  • A fascinating story!
    THE LACE READER (Novel/Susp-Towner Whitney-Mass-Cont) - VG
    Barry, Brunonia - 1st book
    Wm. Morrow, 2008, ARC - ISBN: 9780061688584

    First Sentence: My name is Towner Whitney.

    Towner Whitney grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, a town known for the witch trials in the 1600s and where, in the present, witches have become a major economic asset; except to Cal and his group of "Calvinist" religious fanatics. Tower descends from a family of women who read the future using lace as the medium.

    Having lived in California for the past 10-years and recovering from surgery, she returns to Salem after being notified that her Aunt Eva, who principally raised her, is missing. Coming back to Salem is memories and relationships, including Cal, whom she believes is responsible for Eva's disappearance.

    The story begins with our being told that everything Towner tells us is a lie and everything told by the narrator is true. It is important to keep that distinction in mind. But rather than it being a lie, it's about memory and a distorted perception of what is true. This changes as the story unfolds.

    There is a theme of circles throughout the story; the circle of women whether they be the lace makers, the witches or the Red Hat Ladies, and the circle of past and present. For Towner, it's her life, memories and the relationships with those around her.

    Towner is a fascinating protagonist and certainly unusual. She is a seer and a lace reader, but you never quite know where things stand with her. When young, she and her sister broke into a house and cleaned it. "The kind of thing only a girl would do."

    It's not the easiest book to follow But it is a compelling story with a wonderful sense of place, wry humor, a paranormal element that I very much enjoyed, and some very good suspense that kept me turning the pages wanting to know how it would end.

    It's not a perfect book. There were some threads begun and left hanging. But I was reading the ARC and can hope those were corrected in the final version. I may just be curious enough to buy the final to find out.

    ...more info
  • Lace Reader - Quirky with Twists and Turns
    I found this book to be exactly what I wanted to read. Its plot is unique and the subject of the Salem witches, lace makers, etc., set in Massachusetts was perfect from start to finish. There are many twists and turns and the reader will find it hard to put the book down. Read carefully between the lines, there is a lot going on. I have recommended this book to my book club.

    Diane James...more info
  • blah, then good, then, huh?
    I just finished this book and figured now would be the time to comment. I had trouble committing to the characters and style in the beginning, finding the book alarmingly reminiscent of overly theatrical historical fiction with hints of the romance genre thrown in. Then, something changed; it suddenly became more sophisticated, and multilayered, and I was encouraged enough to read til the end, at which point the whole damn thing just crashed and burned. Previous reviewers have alluded to this, and I won't repeat their words, but suffice to say that the allover effect is disappointing. There was some real substance to the book, and unfortunately it was not sustained. I'd suggest taking it out from the library so that you don't regret paying for it....more info
  • Lots of holes in the plot
    I grew up in Salem, and I was very excited when I heard about this book. Sadly, the best thing I can say about it is that it mentioned lots of familiar places. I found the story to be disjointed and garbled. The story is written from the points of view of two of the characters. One of them is written in the first person and the other in the third person which I found odd. Also, there were a lot of questions left unanswered when I finished the book. On the whole, I found this book more frustrating than entertaining....more info
  • Outstanding
    Loved this book. The comparison to The Sixth Sense is perfect. Left me stunned and having to go back to re-read many passages. Highly recommended! ...more info
  • The Lace Reader
    It was easy reading and held my attention; however, when I finished it, I realized I still didn't understand the plot....more info
  • Disappointing
    I was so looking forward to reading this book. I live in Marblehead and I enjoy reading about Salem and its history of witchcraft. But I was disappointed. While I enjoyed the local detail (I will never again look at the Roger Conant statue without searching for that perfect angle), I agree with other reviewers here who found the book convoluted and plodding, an average read. The story felt a tumble and jumble of details and it did not grab me until about 150 pages in. The ending reminded me of Chris Bohjalian's THE DOUBLE BIND. Part of my problem may have been that I read THE LACE READER right after I finished THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, a tautly written novel about the Salem witch trials. I loved THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, and I think Barry's book suffered in comparison....more info
  • What ??!!
    From the cover of this book, to the initial description and title, it seemed like it would be a unique and good read. By page 87 I found myself wondering why I ever thought that in the first place. The person who designed the cover is a marketing genious, yes - covers sell books. I finally finished the book and can't be quite as complimentary to the editor. I think there could have been a good story there, but it really needed to be edited down. Why does the reader need 100+ pages of useless drivel? Really annoying.
    ...more info