The Lace Reader: A Novel

The Lace Reader: A Novel

3.6 189
by Brunonia Barry
     
 

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In the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale, Brunonia Barry’s bewitching gothic novel, The Lace Reader, is a phenomenon. Called “[a] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic” by Time Magazine, it is a haunting and remarkable tale told by an unforgettable, if strangely unreliable narrator—a woman from an

Overview

In the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale, Brunonia Barry’s bewitching gothic novel, The Lace Reader, is a phenomenon. Called “[a] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic” by Time Magazine, it is a haunting and remarkable tale told by an unforgettable, if strangely unreliable narrator—a woman from an enigmatic Salem family who can foretell the future in patterns of lace. The Lace Reader was a runaway New York Times bestseller—hitting the top lists in major cities across the country, from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles—and has immediately established debut author Brunonia Barry as a major force in contemporary American fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The Lace Reader unravels a magical, yet tragic family’s tale...Barry has cleverly and delightfully set us up. With one fell swoop, she cuts the last thread, and the characters she has so carefully created unravel to reveal secrets we had not even begun to guess.”
People
“A spine-tingler set in Salem...[with] an irresistible pull...The Lace Reader is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club.”
Booklist
“[For] fans of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind.”
Rocky Mountain News
“Finely rendered moments make this a novel to savor—a story as textured as it is imaginative... a story that readers will find as lovely as a swatch of handmade lace.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The Lace Reader casts an enthralling spell...As The Lace Reader unspools, we are drawn into a whirling vortex of deceit. Barry untangles these confusing strands of mystery with an artful precision.”
Denver Post
“What makes Brunonia Barry’s compulsively readable debut even more interesting is the spice added by fillips both psychic and supernatural.”
Dallas Morning News
“Brunonia Barry has pulled off a major feat with her debut, The Lace Reader: It’s a gorgeously written literary novel that’s also a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping.”
New York Times
“What is real in The Lace Reader? What is not? To her credit Ms. Barry makes this story blithe and creepy in equal measure.... And there is much suspense invested in where all the lacunas in Towner’s impressions will lead her...There are clues planted everywhere.”
Chicago Tribune
“A gorgeously written literary novel that’s a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping.”
USA Today
“Barry’s modern-day story of Towner Whitney, who has the psychic gift to read the future in lace patterns, is complex but darker in subject matter.... The novel’s gripping and shocking conclusion is a testament to Barry’s creativity.”
Tulsa World
“A ‘romance’ in the Nathaniel Hawthorne sense of the word a dark tale of sin and guilt that blends the mundane and the fantastic, with a glimmer of redemptive hope at its core that all the Gothic trappings cannot obscure.”
Tampa Tribune
“An engrossing modern-day twist on the classic Gothic novel….the story both astonishes and satisfies. In short, The Lace Reader is great entertainment.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“Barry has written a meditative, lyric novel that in its discursive storytelling style full of digressions and expository sections on interesting facts will appeal to people who enjoy savoring a book one section at a time.”
Washington Post Book World
“Gripping…a marvelously bizarre cast of characters (living and dead) in a uniquely colorful town.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Surprise endings are tough to pull off—too often they aren’t a surprise to anyone but the main character. To Barry’s credit, she genuinely got me.”
Tom Jenks
“Barry’s novel is that rare thing—a literary page-turner worthy for it’s story and for its art.”
Time magazine
“[A] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic.”
San Antonio Express-News
“Barry does a fantastic job of sketching out her characters. The Whitney women, one and all, are intriguingly real.”
New York magazine
“Suspenseful and literary catnip-for-book-clubs...while it’s surprisingly gritty for having “lace” in the title, we’re calling this now as the beach read of ’08.”
The Olympian
“Barry’s depictions of her characters’ altered states of consciousness are beautifully rendered. And “The Lace Reader” establishes Brunonia Barry as a force...”
Salem Gazette
“The Lace Reader is a page-turner, and the ending is almost as shocking as the film The Sixth Sense.”
People (People Pick)
“A spine-tingler set in Salem...[with] an irresistible pull...The Lace Reader is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club.”
Kristin Hannah
“Lovely and captivating...The Lace Reader showcases Barry’s understanding of human nature. A splendid debut novel.”
Marisa de los Santos
“With THE LACE READER, Brunonia Barry plunges us through the looking glass and beyond to a creepy and fascinating world. Prepare to meet strange, brave, bruised, electrically alive women there. Prepare to be riveted by their story and to live under its spell long after you’ve reached its astonishing end.”
Joshilyn Jackson
“Evocative, layered, smart, and astonishing, THE LACE READER is a fever dream of a novel that will haunt me for a long time to come. The Salem, Massachusetts that the Whitney women inhabit is a wild, dark place, and I loved every moment that I spent there.”
Roxanne Price
“Barry weaves a suspenseful tale of witchcraft and dark mystery…Barry’s depictions of time and place are marvelously descriptive.”
Katherine Turman
“Past and present mysteries merge in a fast-moving narrative that builds through a numerous small dramas to a theatrical conclusion.”
Diane Stern
“The Lace Reader challenges the very notion of reality. A compelling, fast-action page turner. A terrific read!”
Publishers Weekly

In Barry's captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. Towner's suspicions are taken with a grain of salt given her history of hallucinatory visions and self-harm. The mystery enmeshes local cop John Rafferty, who had left the pressures of big city police work for a quieter life in Salem and now finds himself falling for the enigmatic Towner as he mourns Eva and delves into the history of the eccentric Whitney clan. Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters' inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through. (Oct.)

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Library Journal

This initially selfpublished first novel revolves around a family of women in Salem, MA, who can read the future in a piece of Ipswich lace. Protagonist Sophia "Towner" Whitney is an admitted liar with a history of mental illness, and listeners quickly learn to question her perspective. Between Towner's confused narration and the inclusion of other characters' points of view, the plot is sometimes hard to follow, but readers will enjoy the suspenseful (albeit somewhat implausible) ending. Actress/narrator Alyssa Bresnahan (White Oleander) seamlessly and skillfully blends together the many aspects of this intriguing novel, which has garnered a great deal of advance attention (see "Hot Tickets," LJ7/08, p. 34). Recommended for public libraries. [Also recorded by Recorded Bks. 10 CDs. Library ed. unabridged. ISBN 9781436140966. $123.75; Playaway® digital. $61.75; audio clip available through www.harpercollins.com; the Morrow hc received a starred review, LJ6/15/08.-Ed.]
—Karen Fauls-Traynor

Kirkus Reviews
In an ambitious debut, a wounded heroine returns home to confront ghosts and hallucinations, bereavements and beatings, a hellfire preacher with a witch-hunting flock and a murky family history with many missing pieces. It's been 15 years since Towner Whitney, descended from a long line of Salem eccentrics, fled the town, following her twin sister's death and her own incarceration in a psychiatric hospital where she received shock therapy after claiming to have killed vicious Cal Boynton, whose abuse left his wife brain-damaged and blind. Now, Towner's back, summoned by the disappearance of her great-aunt Eva, preeminent lace reader (it's a skill similar to reading tea leaves, but using the intricate hand-made fabric instead), whose body is soon found at sea. Eva's funeral is disrupted by the Calvinists, a fearsome religious group led by supposedly reformed Cal, currently suspected of further abuse or possibly worse by the local cop, Detective Rafferty, an ex-alcoholic from New York who starts to date Towner. Over-egged pudding doesn't even begin to describe the torrent of content and genres in Barry's first novel, which interweaves wise and half-crazed women, a gothic past involving a suicidal leap from a storm-tossed cliff and an occasionally thriller-ish present which includes Towner and a pregnant teen making a superhuman underwater escape from a burning building. Unusual and otherworldly, this is a blizzard of a story which surprisingly manages to pull together its historical, supernatural and psychiatric elements. A survivor's tale of redemption, reached via a long and winding road. Agent: Rebecca Oliver/Endeavor
Time Magazine
"[A] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic."
People Magazine
"A spine-tingler set in Salem...[with] an irresistible pull...The Lace Reader is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club."
New York Magazine
"Suspenseful and literary catnip-for-book-clubs...while it’s surprisingly gritty for having "lace" in the title, we’re calling this now as the beach read of ’08."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061624773
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/18/2009
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
280,523
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 8.06(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Marisa de los Santos
“With THE LACE READER, Brunonia Barry plunges us through the looking glass and beyond to a creepy and fascinating world. Prepare to meet strange, brave, bruised, electrically alive women there. Prepare to be riveted by their story and to live under its spell long after you’ve reached its astonishing end.”
Diane Stern
“The Lace Reader challenges the very notion of reality. A compelling, fast-action page turner. A terrific read!”
Joshilyn Jackson
“Evocative, layered, smart, and astonishing, THE LACE READER is a fever dream of a novel that will haunt me for a long time to come. The Salem, Massachusetts that the Whitney women inhabit is a wild, dark place, and I loved every moment that I spent there.”
Kristin Hannah
“Lovely and captivating...The Lace Reader showcases Barry’s understanding of human nature. A splendid debut novel.”
Tom Jenks
“Barry’s novel is that rare thing—a literary page-turner worthy for it’s story and for its art.”
Katherine Turman
“Past and present mysteries merge in a fast-moving narrative that builds through a numerous small dramas to a theatrical conclusion.”
Roxanne Price
“Barry weaves a suspenseful tale of witchcraft and dark mystery…Barry’s depictions of time and place are marvelously descriptive.”

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia Barry lives in Salem with her husband and their beloved golden retriever, Byzantium.

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The Lace Reader 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 189 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based upon the summary and other reviews I was looking forward to reading the book. The idea of reading lace was intriguing and the setting sounded mysterious. I was all set for a weekend of escapist reading but was disappointed and ended up annoyed. The book started out interesting, the plot went nowhere. The concept of lace reading was original but other than that it was filled with stereotypical characters (can anyone say recovering alcoholic Irish cop?, among others) Although the descriptions of people and places were well written, the plot was not. It was cluttered with non-essentials. By the end of the book, I really didn't care what happened to any of the characters. There are several reasons why I can't recommend the book, but it would spoil it for someone else who might not share my opinions. I was glad I checked it out of the library rather than purchasing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author set the stage perfectly in this amazing book, ¿My name is Towner Whitney. No, that¿s not exactly true. My real name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.¿ Towner Whitney had a rough life, at seventeen her twin sister died leaving Towner hospitalized to undergo shock therapy. Soon afterward, Towner leaves Salem and moves cross-country to California. When she receives news of the death of her Great Aunt Eva, Towner makes the dreaded trip back home after a fifteen-year absence. Her return sparks lots of emotions and gossip and the story begins to unfold. The telling of a family history of the women in the Whitney family, who live life quite differently from everyone else and have a unique magical ability to read lace. Interwoven into the story is the background of Towner and her twin sister. Adding to the story is the random disappearance of a young woman tied to the family by strings unknown. The author manages to captivate the audience with her potent descriptions of Salem and its history. Layering and adding multiple stories, giving select information and perceptions to the reader, and throwing twists and turns around every corner, the final chapters explode into perfection. The Lace Reader is quirky and unique in its own way, but the style the author uses makes it a must read for anyone looking for something just off center. High praises for The Lace Reader and Brunonia Barry. Valerie Jones
regina77004 More than 1 year ago
I had a difficult time connecting to the characters in the beginning. I had a fellow book reader tell me to "forget about the witchcraft it was just dressing. The book is about abuse." I took that advice and was able to settle into the story. Townser opens the book warning that she is a habitual liar. This sets the stage: there is more to the story than meets the eye. Set in Salem and drawing on the history of the region (witchcraft and Underground Railroad) Barry does an excellent job of weaving a complicated tale that reveals the impact of severe physical and sexual abuse while also showing the resilency of the human spirit and the healing powers of love and forgiveness.
Baileys_Mom More than 1 year ago
When I was young I assumed reality was just that - real, and therefore the same for everyone. Life experiences have proven that everyone's reality is really based on life experiences and your own filters. This book is a wonderful example of someone living with those around them and having a completly unique reality. The caracters are well drawn but not drawn out. The "city" of Salem is as much a caracter as the people. A great book! I look forward to Ms. Barry's new book "The Map of True Places".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This will suck you in and hold you so far into the plot until the very end! Once there, you'll have to read it again just to make your brain feel better about missing it the first time! I loved the main character and even after I put the book down felt as though she were a good friend that just went a little wayward.
JoeyMN More than 1 year ago
If you like a book with lots of local descriptions where plot and action are secondary, than this is for you. This book just never captured my attention, possibly because I do not subscribe to phrenology, mind reading, or lace reading as did many characters in the book. Way too fanciful for me.
Chocolattez More than 1 year ago
I too read the reviews and thought this would be a quirky but interesting and good read - it wasn't. I read it on tape - and contrary to what others have said - I did not think it was very good. The book is a muddy mess. It was relatively easy to figure out - you could tell where the author was heading = but it didn't make sense. Don't waste your time. Too many books, too little time... leave this one behind.
joanie830 More than 1 year ago
This book was a little hard to get into, but when I did, I couldn't put it down. The book was compelling and always kept me wondering what was going to happen. We read the book for my book club and I can't wait to discuss it next week to see what everyone else's thoughts were when they finished. It would be worth a second read!
The_Mighty_Bonners More than 1 year ago
Being from the area where this story takes place, I was very excited to read this book. I had recently read the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and loved it! Unfortunately this book did not live up to my expectations. The author has an interesting story to tell, and is clearly familiar with the Salem, Massachusetts area, but there were way too many local references. After a while I began to wonder if she was being paid by the mention of local restaurants and attractions. I also found the characters for the most part unlikeable with exception of one or two. The fundamental religious component was also weird and disturbing. My book club (aside from me) enjoyed this book, so you don't have to take my word for it. I personally couldn't wait for it to be over and done.
Lannie More than 1 year ago
This is a one-of-a-kind! I thoroughly enjoyed it! Lies or misinterpretaion? Magic? Lace reading? Witches? MYTERIOUS and SURPRISING!! EXCITING READ! ENJOY! A few more books I'm crazy about are, THE HELP, by K. Stocket, EXPLOSION IN PARIS, by L. Pirrung, and SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME......MASTERIECES!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As someone who lives in Salem, was born and raised here, I really enjoyed this book. I think the author could have gotten into the lace reading a little bit more (but I think that's being saved for a second book) but I LOVED this book. It left me wanting more and I was very impressed on how she expressed the character of this town. Salemites can be a tough nut to crack, but I think she really captured the spirit (pun intended) of this town. I think she catpured the pull the town has between those who view wicca as a religion and those who wish all the witchiness would just go away so we could be known for our rich maritime history instead. This book does the difficult task of honoring BOTH at the same time. The story was good and I surprisingly learnt about a City I thought I knew EVERYTHING about. Highly encourage reading this book.
ArdentReader More than 1 year ago
This book is a quick read and it's hard to put down. It has a surprise ending that will make you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Given the spirit of Halloween, cold, raw and rainy days, and in the mood to take a virtual trip back to my home state of Massachusetts, I recently picked up Brunonia Barry's the LACE READER. As I titled this review, it is a book to be read delicately, as there is such an abundance of detail, twists and turns throughout that you just may miss something if you breeze through even a paragraph. Barry easily made this fictional story come to life in the way she carefully describes the main setting of Salem, Massachusetts - so much so that the reader at times forgets what is fiction and what is fact. Some may have a hard time following the story as the narration switches perspectives, but my attention was held throughout, and I would definitely recommend it to others. Well done, Ms. Barry! I look forward to reading more of your work! J.R. Reardon author, CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS
BookwormTN More than 1 year ago
I felt I had wasted my time and had really looked forward to the book. One must remember that one of the first paragraphs did state "I have always been a liar."
RoseJai More than 1 year ago
I can usually guess how a story will end or what will happen in a later chapter but I'm happy to admit I did not see this ending coming! It made the book much more interesting for me because of this and I recommend other know it all readers to give it a try. You wont be disappointed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book several months ago, after reading a great review. It sounded like a good story, and a good vacation read. Maybe it's just me, but reading all 300+ pages was torture and the only reason I finished the book was the fact I bought it. It is definitely not the kind of book you can't wait to read the next chapter. It is slow, depressing and you have the "surprise ending" figured out about 1/3 of the way through. I definitely do not recommend.
cewilch More than 1 year ago
What a mysterious, soul grabbing book! This is the kind of story that when you get to the ending, it makes you wish you remembered every little detail all the way from the beginning of the story, to better help you grasp the ending. . . . . there was no way I saw that coming! I love these kind of stories and appreciate being suprised rather than thinking I have it all figured out. Thank you Brunonia Barry - what a great first offering from a promising, gifted writer! I look forward to your next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic book! The perfect amount of description with a great unsuspected twist at the end. Kept me reading all night long!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the town of Salem, Massachusetts, innocent women needing to be controlled were once accused of witchcraft. Now Salem plays host to a group of women who openly parade around as witches and a whole tourist industry reenacts the past in broad daylight. A new religious group calling themselves the Calvinists goes about admonishing and threatening witches and unusual or strong women. Towner's great aunt is a lace reader, a woman who can read the future in lace. Her home and the lace reader group become a sanctuary for women escaping their abusive husbands. Together this circle of women find support and strength.// Towner comes back to town after her aunt Eva goes missing, embarking on a journey that puts her past and present life into perspective. She meets Rafferty, the detective intent on solving the case. Together, their perspectives create an aura of mystery to the events of both the past and present. Towner narrates the history of Salem, Salem's current life, her own personal history and her present in a unique pattern as finely interwoven as lace. Each chapter is prefaced by a quote from the Lace Reader's Guide written by Eva describing the art, history and technique of lace reading and the Ipswich lace makers. Towner's life is like the lace with fine threads all interwoven yet converging. The reader follows all the strands in her life, not as a straight direct kind of plot, but as different memories, some reliable and others imagined, all forming the uniqueness of a piece of art---the life of human being. Brunonia Barry's narrative presents a portrait of Towner not as an isolated separate individual but a person with whom other lives converge. Yellow Dog Island's circle of women reinforces this theme on the interconnectedness of individuals.// This novel was incredible. Brunonia Berry does deal with some hard issues like spousal abuse so if you are looking for a light, happy easy read, this is not a good choice. That warning being said, this novel was awesome! THE LACE READER inspires readers to follow with the imagination and go it where it leads. By the end, all the narrative threads and images add up to something spectacular and rich as past and present and landscape, history and the personal all combine. THE LACE READER is a novel built in layers and nuances like a person's life or like the memories in the mind or like the depths of psychology. THE LACE READER has some surprising and poetic twists towards the end. There is no guaranteed happy easily resolved ending --- but the ending has it's own kind of satisfying richness that combines deep emotion, sadness, even trauma into a new beginning and a new sense of freedom. Beautifully poetic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Spellbinding
Terrietime More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I've ever read. Thank you.
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
THE LACE READER is quirky and unique, something just off-center. Reality is based on life experiences and your own perceptions of your life’s events. This book is a perfect example of someone living with their own completely unique reality. The Lace Reader is a very well written suspenseful mystery. I enjoyed the distinctive writing style. The storylines were a bit choppy at times and not as connected as I had hoped they would be which really interrupted the flow in reading. The pacing of the story felt a bit uneven at times and there were some depressing, boring sections that should have been better developed. Some sections were stronger than others, others a slow read. I can usually guess how a story will end or what will happen in a later chapter but I'm happy to admit I did not see this ending coming! It made the book much more interesting, and I recommend other readers give it a try. You won’t be disappointed! This is the kind of story that when you get to the ending, it makes you wish you remembered every little element from the beginning, to better help you comprehend the conclusion. I love these kind of stories and appreciate being totally surprised rather than thinking I have it all figured out. I would have enjoyed the mystical element being explored even further, and I did appreciate the family history aspect with sins of the past coming to light. And I was delighted that the author made Salem as much a character as the people. Overall, this was an impressive debut novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago