Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader
by Brunonia Barry

Harper Collins - 2006

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Lately I have had a very difficult time staying focused while reading - which is not at all like me. I have started several books over the last two weeks, and while I have enjoyed all of them, they have just not held my interest through to the end. Personally, I blame all you book bloggers for this current illness. If you wouldn't write such enticing book reviews for each and every book you read, I would not feel compelled to drop everything at once and begin reading the newest recommendation.

Recently I read an author interview on The Book Lady's blog. I love reading author interviews, especially when they focus on HOW they developed an idea into a full-fledged novel. The interview with Brunonia Barry was terrific - and I immediately followed the link to the Book Lady's review of the novel, The Lace Reader. I thoroughly enjoy a good psychological thriller with a twist ending, so I immediately requested a copy of the book from my local library.

Last night I was once again restless in my reading and decided to pick up this little gem. I began reading around 8:00pm and finished the book at noon today. It was fascinating! I will warn you, however, that once you finish the book you will want to immediately re-read it. I am sure there were many clues to the ultimate ending of the book that I missed along the way, and I would like to go back and discover them.

What captured my attention right away - and managed to help me stay focused on this story at hand, were the first few sentences of the novel:
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.
OK --- I have heard of unreliable narrators before - but when the narrator immediately tells me that she lies all the time, I simply have to finish this book in order to learn if (or when) she ever tells the true. The entire time I was reading I was constantly thinking " this really true, or is there a twist?" Talk about suspenseful and keeping the reader engaged!

The novel is written in 5 parts, and most of these parts are told from Towner's point of view. There are times, however, when the author changes perspective and this makes the story that much more intriguing.

The setting of The Lace Reader is Salem, Massachusetts, and the constant references to the witch trials makes me want to immediately research this time period in our nation's history. There is also a reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, that I desperately want to read as well. I also have a copy of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (by Katherine Howe) that is just begging for me to open, and I think this might be the perfect follow-up novel to The Lace Reader.

Each chapter begins with a quote from the Lace Reader's Guide, which I found interesting, but which I also now want to go back and discover the tie-in for the quote to the events in the chapter. While in real life I am not at all interested in anything that involves a needle and thread (I literally do not sew a button on a shirt), I did find the detail of lace making, and the concept of reading the future through lace creations, fascinating.

I hesitate giving a plot summary, as it is most difficult to start without giving away too much of the ending. I will tell you that the characters revolve around the Whitney family: Towner and her twin sister, Lindley, and their younger brother; Eva and her daughters Emma and May and Emma's husband Cal (ex drunken yacht racer turned evangelical cult leader of the "Calvinists"). Rafferty is local law enforcement agent who was a good friend of Eva and is determined to discover why she is missing. The story begins when Towner, who is currently living in California, is notified that Eva is missing and requested to return home. The present mystery, as well as past secrets, are adeptly revealed in a flashback and flash forward (through lace readings) narrative.

I hope this review is not too ambiguous, but rather just whets your appetite enough if this a book that you think you might enjoy. This time of year is certainly a great time to read it, and I am quite sure it would satisfy as an appropriate read for the RIP IV challenge.


  1. I've heard such great things about this book and am glad you enjoyed it, Molly. It's been sitting on my TBR pile awhile now and I hope to get to it soon. Thanks for the great review.

  2. YA fantasy novel, Gateway to DreamWorld was released August 20, 2009.

    Synopsis: On their way home from baseball tryouts, Brad Colby and his two sons are involved in a terrible car accident that leaves six-year-old Pete in a coma. When Pete awakens, the family is crushed to learn that he is paralyzed.

    Meanwhile, Pete’s eight-year-old brother, Jason, has been having powerful dreams that lead him to a mysterious realm known as DreamWorld. Jason discovers that all of his desires can come true in DreamWorld, but the time is fast approaching when he will have to choose between his two worlds.

    And when more devastating news strikes at the heart of the Colby family, Jason and Pete set out on a desperate attempt to find the Gateway to DreamWorld and save their family. With time running out on their dangerous path, will Jason and Pete’s fear of the Unknown keep them from reaching the paradise of their dreams?

    The book is available from or Barnes& at a discounted price.

    Thanks for your time and I hope you enjoy the fantasy

  3. I have this very book sitting on my shelves, waiting to fulfill my RIP reading challenge. I LOVE unreliable narrators, and this one seems like it is the mother of them all! Every review I've read has been sort of vague, but know enough to know I will love it! Great review!

  4. A couple members of my book club raved about this, too. Now it's going on my list!

  5. Great review Molly! I have thought about checking this out from the library several times. LOL you do make it sound very interesting.

  6. I think I first saw this review on Rebecca's blog as well. I'm really anxious to read the book!

  7. This one is on my list too. I saw a live interview with the author and immediately knew I had to read the book. So, I agree with you - "knowing" the author often makes the difference. Glad to found a book to relieve that restless book feeling.

  8. So glad you enjoyed this wonderful novel! (and thanks for the shout-out :))

  9. What a great review, Molly! I have an audio version of this book that I've been meaning to try out. I haven't had very good luck with audio books so I'm hesitant to try it but we'll see.

  10. Well that is a great opening!!! I love stuff like that! And I know what you mean when you feel like you can't quite find the right book and then BAM -- you get a gem like this one. Great review!

  11. Funny that we were reading this at the same time (and had totally different experiences). I am glad you enjoyed it!

  12. I've been having a bad time finishing books lately as well and was wondering what to do about it. Well, guess what I have sitting on my shelf? Yes, 'The Lace Reader'. That, I think is this weekend sorted out. Thank you.

  13. Excellent review of The Lace Reader; loved the setting and the characters in this book.

  14. See, Molly, your being restless in reading helps me understand this book better! I've been curious about this one since all the bookstores are featuring it. Now that a book constantly makes you wonder if it's for real is just my kind of book. :)

  15. I have heard good things about this book before. I don't think I've ever read a book with such an unreliable narrator, so that would certainly keep things interesting.

  16. If I hadn't just read and loved this book myself, your review would have sent me straight to the store. I was actually so excited about this book, especially when I found out the author would be coming to Dallas this month, that I proposed it to my book club for our October read. So I'll be experiencing it again!

    Towner was such a great character. Although, even though she says at the beginning of the book that she lies, I cannot convince myself that what transpired in the end was a lie. Seems like Towner didn't even know herself what twists were going to come. Hmmm--something to discuss with the group! :)

    Glad you liked this one Molly.


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