The Lace Reader: A Novel
by Brunonia Barry
Paperback- $12.88

In the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale, Brunonia Barry’s bewitching gothic novel, The Lace Reader, is a phenomenon. Called “[a] richly ...

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  "Not what we expected" by Kathy E. (see profile) 01/22/09

We would give this book more like a 3 1/2 star rating out of 5. Some parts of the book flowed well but most of it was random. The points of view anlternates from chapter to chapter, which made the book interesting and hard to follow at the same time. At times the plot felt predictable to us. And some members complained about having a hard time getting into the book. The book did bring on a really good discussion of venting about the book, though. Everyone gets a diffrent view point from this book; and in the group it was worth the reading.
Over all our group has decided to put this in the "Never-read-again" shelf.
Okay, so this book is about a family of women with "the sight," who can read a person's future through lace. Except there's very little actual lace reading that goes on in the book. There's a fair bit of lace making, but no reading. The heroine has been estranged from her relatives, until her great aunt goes missing. There is a whole lot of painful backstory exploration of the heroine's dead twin sister who was given away as an infant and suffered awful things before she commited suicide. There's a young woman who's been caught up in a cult led by an ex-relative of the family. There's a detective who's slowly falling in love with Towner (main character). The author gets you to invest a whole lot of energy and belief in the story, and then at the end, you discover that almost everything you were led to believe was a lie, and there's not enough story left to allow the reader to adjust to the new information, which is apparently the real reality...

  "An Imaginative Mystery" by ahack25 (see profile) 09/16/09

I immensely enjoyed this book. I think I finished it in about two days. It is the perfect Summer or Autumn read in that it deals with family, friendship, mystery, love...the classic themes. The plot is just imaginative...dashed with a mystery, plot twists, and a bit of magic.

Towner Whitney has come back to Salem, Massachusetts after being in self-imposed exile in California for many years. She comes back due to the disappearance of her Great Aunt Eva. The Whitney women are all lace readers....meaning they not only create lace but can "read" the future for people in the pieces as well. Towner does not do this anymore. --Remember that the setting is in of the famous 1600's Witch Trials. The author notes that while there were no actual witches back during those infamous Salem has become a hub for witches.

While Salem, the witches, and the lace reading all give the story a great magical backdrop...the real story is of Towner Whitney and her family. Towner Whitney has never been the same since her twin sister Lindley committed suicide when they were 17 years old. Towner went off the deep-end after it happened and is missing much of her memory. May, Towner's mother but not her sister's mother (confusing right?), has become a recluse in her island home and has dedicated her life to helping abused women. Other characters include Towner's Aunt Emma (Lindley's mom), her brother Beezer, her old flame Jack, Salem's Detective Rafferty, and Cal (estranged and abusive father of Lindley).

I was quite confused at the beginning (and for a while after) about Towner's family tree. Who was who's mother, sister, aunt, all got convoluted. But that's the point...keep reading. What I loved was the author's depiction of Salem and the almost normality of the magical-ness of it all. And I loved going along with Towner's memories while her damaged mind tries to figure everything out. It was a great and unusual perspective.

You might out-guess the twists and turns in the book, but that is ok. The book is about waiting for the characters to figure it all out.

  "The Lace Reader" by Clifford (see profile) 10/01/09

Brunonia Barry has created a story that is as intricate and textured as Ipswich lace. Each chapter moves you along a beautifully woven path. Unpredictable—You will not be able to put this book down!

  "The Lace Reader" by JLHanson (see profile) 01/22/10

Interesting and thought provoking. The ending left me confused about everything I had read previously. It actually made me want to read it a second time.

  "Great Read with a Surprise Twist Ending!" by lollygil (see profile) 01/28/10

The beginning is a little slow, but once you get into it, you cannot put it down! Our club loved this book! And we are looking forward to the sequel!

  "A First Book That Will Keep You On Your Toes" by NiteMage (see profile) 02/04/10

A good read and surprising, it had me still trying to puzzling out clues until the end. This is a good first book by this author and I can tell she will get better and better. If not for the carpel tunnel which makes me lose feeling in my fingers I would try lace making.

  "Great Book for Discussion" by PECHEMAN (see profile) 02/16/10

I loved this book, it was one of my favorites for book club...I however listened to it on cd...and must admit there were times I wish I had the book to go back at parts...looking forward to the sequal!

  "Good Book" by rbeardsley (see profile) 02/27/10

  "lace reader" by susanbeamon (see profile) 03/14/10

This is a book that will sneak up and surprise you. It can be read as a novel, which it is called, or as a mystery, which it truly is. The clues are there for the ending, but only if the story is approached as a mystery. I am rarely surprised by a story any more, so this was a rare treat of a book. No real spoilers here, but do pay attention to the first couple of sentences.

  "memom" by mgoettee (see profile) 04/01/10

Good read, although very dark story and somewhat confusing- particularly at the end. At times I wondered if the narrator was actually experiencing what she was describing or was she seeing these visions in her 'lace.

  "Who knew?" by ameryan (see profile) 08/01/10

I loved this book, especially the way each bit of information about reading the lace was relevant to what was going on in the chapter.

  "The Lace Reader" by MLA57 (see profile) 08/02/10

I did like the book; it grabbed my attention right from the start. However, at times it was a bit confusing. As a resident of the North Shore in Massachusetts, I found the facts about towns around here to be right on target!

  "Wow" by riegerd (see profile) 08/15/10

I won't say too much. Don't Google or read reviews. Just read it. A surprise awaits.

  "small dash of the super natural" by deenafrog (see profile) 10/21/10

with a side of romance. It all comes out in the wash.

  "The Lace Reader" by MLA57 (see profile) 11/26/10

I really enjoyed this book. As someone from the North Shore of Maasachusetts. I could picture some of of "real" places in this novel. The twin thing was a little twist.

  "Good Book" by georgeannschmidt (see profile) 01/12/11

  "The Lace Reader" by trin7775 (see profile) 04/20/11

While interesting and certainly compelling enough to finish, I was a bit confused throughout the entire book. However, as the narrator points out, half of what she says is a lie, so I guess I was forewarned!

  "Need to have book club discussion first." by vrtikapa (see profile) 05/27/11

  "She's a liar" by ebach (see profile) 09/01/11

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 was missing. Turns out, though, she’s 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 MAKER 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.

The first 70 pages rated two stars; the rest rated four. So I guess that makes three.

  "The Lace Reader" by mistyviolet (see profile) 12/26/12

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader begins with an interesting premise, but quickly bogs down in fairly incomprehensible detail of lace reading. Towner is a beguiling character whose personality unfolds as the tale is revealed. She was what kept me reading. The “lace reading” of the title was so shallowly explained that I simply skimmed those parts (which did NOT harm the plot in the slightest). I wondered if the author was any clearer in her understanding or knowledge of lace reading than I was.
Cal, the prime antagonist, is drawn with no redeeming qualities and consequently is quickly boring although necessary as catalyst. The “Calvinist” group he leads is so skimpily explained that you are never sure what they stand for or why they act as they do. Rafferty, the “hero”, is more surely drawn, which makes him fascinating to discover as he is revealed.
I enjoyed the book and would recommend it for book groups. There are many topics for discussion – mental illness, mental and physical abuse, religious fervor, witchcraft, the ties between twins, self-help groups, charismatic leaders (both good and bad) and the influence they maintain over others and their responsibility for the group’s actions.

  "The Lace Reader" by ChrisA (see profile) 06/07/13

A slow-paced drama set in Salem MA. yet the last 50 pp is a wild ride, and unveiling of secrets. Wonderful description of the locale, some history thrown in also, interesting characters, wounded souls, empowered and vulnerable women, domestic violence/sexual assault...what one does to survive both physically & mentally. Stick with the journey, it\\\'s worth it.

  "The Lace Reader" by susanbeamon (see profile) 06/10/13

This book can be read in two ways, as a novel and as a mystery. I read it as a novel and so was surprised by the ending more than I would have been had I engaged the book as a mystery. Without spoilers, I reccomend this as a very engaging read.

  "The Lace Reader" by llorton (see profile) 11/20/13

Most in our Book Club felt it was hard to get into and boring. Those who persevered liked the ending!

  "Get Ready to Be Surprised" by critzyj (see profile) 01/07/14

This is the second time I've read this book. I enjoyed it the first time, but just had to read it again because the ending is a surprise and I just didn't know where I missed the "turn" that led to the ending. Can't give away more than that, but it's worth the read.

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