The Lace Reader: Book summary and reviews of The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader

By Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2008,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

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."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through." - Publishers Weekly.

"Starred Review. In this, [Barry's] first original adult novel, she combines her focus on the history of this particular community, including its witchcraft trials, religious cults, and quotidian seaport life, with her study of a fractured family seeking truth to bring us a most unusual and bewitching novel. Highly recommended." - Library Journal.

"Unusual and otherworldly, this is a blizzard of a story which surprisingly manages to pull together its historical, supernatural and psychiatric elements." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Becky Haase
Still don't know what lace reading is
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.

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Author Information

Brunonia Barry Author Biography

Photo by Martha Everson

Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women's Fiction Festival's Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists' Colony's Strnad Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival's award for Best Fiction.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia studied literature and creative writing at Green Mountain College in Vermont and at the University of New Hampshire, spending a year in Dublin where she studied James Joyce's Ulysses. After college, she worked in public relations for several theatrical productions in Chicago, including ...

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