3 reviews

The Fifth Petal: A Novel
by Brunonia Barry

Published: 2017-01-24
Hardcover : 448 pages
7 members reading this now
3 clubs reading this now
1 member has read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members
Could a witch hunt happen again in Salem?

For readers of Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of WitchesNew York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader Brunonia Barry returns to Salem with this spellbinding new thriller, a complex brew of suspense, seduction and murder.

When a teenage ...
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Could a witch hunt happen again in Salem?

For readers of Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of WitchesNew York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader Brunonia Barry returns to Salem with this spellbinding new thriller, a complex brew of suspense, seduction and murder.

When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem's chief of police, John Rafferty, wonders if there is a connection between his death and Salem’s most notorious cold case, a triple homicide dubbed "The Goddess Murders," in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. He finds unexpected help in Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims newly returned to town. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian, is guilty of murder or witchcraft.

But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter One

October 31, 2014


There were no witches in Salem in 1692, but they thrive here in great numbers now.

—¬Rose Whelan, The Witches of Salem

Rafferty had never seen so many trick-¬or-¬treaters on Chestnut Street. Nor had he ever been charged with escorting such a large Witches’ March up to Gallows Hill. There were at least 150 of them this year—¬Wiccans, Druids, Celts, nature mama hippies with psychic tendencies, pantheists and polytheists all—¬walking slowly behind his 1980 Crown Vic cruiser, the one he’d rescued from the junk pile. For safety reasons, several streets had been blocked off. Traffic was already backed up onto Highland Avenue as visitors streamed into town for the festivities. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Contemporary Salem is a safe haven for neo-witches, greatly enhancing the city’s tourist trade, but there are many who want to “ditch the witch.” Could a modern day witch hunt happen in Salem again, and, if so, what might it look like? Are witch hunts happening in other parts of the world?

2. “You know who you are, you have always been other,” Rose says in her Book of Trees. In what way is each character in the book “other”? Rose later claims every culture, and every individual, harbors a prejudice against those they consider “other”. Do you agree?

3. Callie longs for home and family, and particularly for a mother figure, having lost her own mother at a young age. How does Callie fulfill that dream, and at what cost?

4. Is the banshee a goddess or a monster? Its power seems to reside in a woman’s raised voice. How does that power manifest in the hands of the different characters?

5. At one point in the story, Rose tells Callie not to “court the strike.” What does she mean, and why is this important to the story?

6. Social media is both a resource and a curse in the novel. The wealth of available information helps Rafferty with his case, but the opinions of anonymous posters also condemn Rose, mirroring Salem’s accusers of 1692. Discuss the positive and negative impacts of social media.

7. Brunonia Barry, who lives in Salem, is often surprised by the generational guilt the city still suffers for the 1692 witch hangings. In what ways does this manifest in the story?

8. Sound and vibration figure in The Fifth Petal, with a capacity to both hurt and heal. How does the banshee’s killer sound relate to vibration and music therapy? How does the music of the spheres that Callie hears during meditation relate to the ancient music heard in Matera?

9. Religion played a huge role in 1692 Salem, as did misogyny and fear of the unknown. Discuss Rose’s quote: “Tell me what you want, and I’ll tell you who you think you are. Tell me what you fear, and I’ll tell you who you really are.”

10. Trees symbolize both the interconnectedness of all life and the roots of humanity in this story. How does the sacred oak help Rose, and what is the significance of the Tree of Life? What does it mean to Callie in her translation of Rose’s Book of Trees?

Suggested by Members

Great map of Salem and locations through authors website including book club kit for discussion as well as recipes.
by HLEMK (see profile) 10/15/20

How do you feel about the whole idea of Witches? And do you think that some exist presently?
Do you have any knowledge of sound/music therapy for the sick?
Did you feel that some of the situations in the book were somewhat trite?
by salemke (see profile) 06/27/17

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Present some factual information on the Witch Trials, Hawthorne, Green Gables, and or Salem
by salemke (see profile) 06/27/17
It would be interesting to have a Book Club watch the movie, "The Crucible" before the discussion or have a separate discussion just on the movie. Also would recommend reading "The Lace Reader" by Barry.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Nancy S. (see profile) 05/04/18

by Gail C. (see profile) 07/04/17

Tension mounted and toward the became a page turner.

  "The Fifth Petal"by Sally L. (see profile) 06/27/17

I had read "The Lace Reader" by Barry and enjoyed it, so I was especially interested in reading this book. There is something that draws me to stories about the Witch Trials, and particularl... (read more)

  "Great Book for October!"by Heidi E. (see profile) 10/15/20

Our club really enjoyed discussing this selection that we WON the books (thanks Book Movement!) for our October read!! Put us in a Halloween spirit thanks to it being set in Salem Massachusetts

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