Every piece of lace has a secret...
"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...."
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."
©2006 Brunonia Barry; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
Towner is an example of an unreliable narrator. From the beginning you suspect that her judgments of the events from the past and the present are distorted. The ending was a surprise that I didnt see coming. It was riveting as much as it was hard to stomach. I would recommend this book to anyone familiar with the North Shore and Salem lifestyle and history, but only if you can stand a virulent plot thread of meanness, murder, and the foulest of abuse. The authors genius is the tapestry of images that is woven as a back drop to the story. The Eastern Yacht Club, Hamilton Hall, Derby Street, the witches, the tourists, the common, even the restoring of the ship off Pickering Wharf, it is all there and described so well that I could smell the sea air mixed with street vender sausage and peppers.
I wasn't sure that I'd enjoy this one. The book has gotten so much hype, and I often find that overhyped books tend to disappoint. It also sounded a bit like hocus-pocus chick lit (e.g., Ya-Ya Sisterhood), but, thankfully, that description didn't fit at all. It's a tough one to place in terms of genre: part historical fiction, part mystery/suspense, part romance, part psychological study. And yet all those threads are knit together in a very engaging plot. Barry also cleverly turns place into character as the town, the island, and the surrounding area gain significance to the story and the narrator. The reader was a good choice, too.
Tell us about yourself! I am a former high school history teacher and now, a semi-retired physician assistant.
An ordinary book sewn together with implausible events and stereotypical characters. There is the misunderstood girl who may or may not be crazy, a gallant police officer who attempts to help, a cult that is after her family, witches who are everyday women, a family mystery, and a conventional ending. Lace reading is a good hook, but Barry doesn't follow through with intersesting predictions. The cult does improbable things and is accused of everything bad except global warming. The surprise at the end is no great shakes, in fact it made the main character, Sophia (Towner), a less reliable narrator.
The best part of The Lace Reader is that it was first self-published then popularized through word of mouth amongst book clubs.
A compelling story with a good, surprising ending. The type of book that leaves you mulling it over in your head long after the narrative has ended.
As a crafter, I chose this book because of its apparent topic of lace making. However, I found that the story doesn't particularly pertain to or revolve around the handcrafting, but rather uses the tradition and history of handmade lace as a rich background from which to draw parallels and metaphors. It's artfully done.
The narrator of the audio version does a great job with the voices, including older women, cops, and adolescents. My one complaint: she doesn't pause enough between sentences or paragraphs, so it's a little difficult to find a good stopping point.
I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it sounded as if this might be a great listen. I found the structure somewhat contrived and I didn't quite enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I usually like this kind of novel and perhaps I should listen to it again. A lot of 'he said, 'I said, 'she said' narrative which does not do well when listening to a book.
I do not understand why people write like this. Here is the potential for a very good story, yet it comes off as a series of blurry snapshots. Characters emerge with high drama in the extreme, and come and go with little context or definition, and the chronology is difficult to follow. The lace motif is interesting but is not hardwired to the narrative.
However, there is occasionally enough detail to stay interested, and there is an excellent sense of place. The ambiance of the setting, the feeling of the town and its characters, so linked to the water, go a long way towards sustaining the story.
The Lace Reader I found to be a wonderful book.
Sophya Whitney as a character was true to her word.I never tell the truth, and Im crazy.
Well Im not so sure about that..Interweaving the New England coastal towns and
Especially Salem, is clearly an inside look we dont normally see, unless you live there.
If you love stories about New England this is a must read.
Brunonia has captured the weaving of the Lace of life in Salem, then and now.
The narrator Alyssa Bresnahan does a fabulous job with the characters, the pace, and the intensity of the telling of it. The opportunity to be transported into another time, and be in the present at the same time is enchanting. I was sorry to have it end.
I found the idea that the intricacies of lace could hold clues to one's future rather intrigueing. The book captured my imagination and did not disappoint. I did not suspect what the end would be until I was almost there; it made me go back to to start so I could understnad everything better. I had forgotten what Towner had said about lying.
The voice was perfect, it moved with the action well.
The ending, the twist, everything.
If you can navigate the irritating quotes from the "Lace Readers Guide" without purposely running your boat into the rocks, just to end it all, and get to the final chapters, you will be well rewarded and want to read this book again.
I entierly agree with the Amazon reviewer who found this book "enjoyable although a little boring". The first half of the novel was an interesting introduction to the town of Salem with it's history of witches and witch hunts but the second didn't keep my attention and I was listening reluctantly.
The lead character of Towner Whitney was endearing, if a little loopy. She has a complicated history, some of which even she does not know. She has left the Salem of her childhood because of a premonition that she had from the lace, and events that took place in her past. Her entwined family still lives there, in amongst the islands. They are all strong swimmers and confident with boats, they also have strong powers of fortune telling. As we gradually get to know these people and their history it becomes apparent that all is not as it first seems.
When one of them goes missing, Towner is forced to return and face her demons.
In some parts the story became a bit confusing, what was real and what dreamed, and the phrase "shape-shifted" was well overused.
I found the lace reading a bit unbelievable and the exerpts from the book penned by Towner's Aunt Eva that opened each chapter were far fetched in places. This was one of the disadvantages of the audiobook, the narrator insisted on reading these exerpts at each new chapter, where I would have skipped them.
Although events come to a head towards the end, this is not a thriller. Nor would I describe it as an historical novel, In my opinion it is a romantic mystery with supernatural overtones.
Well read by the narrator.
"Enjoyable but not excellent"
This is a well written and vividly told story. Much of it is compelling and it is mostly well paced. I personally found its twists and turns a little predictable which was somewhat disappointing but perhaps this is a reflection of me having read books with similar emotional themes.
"Nothing is ever as it seems"
Listened to on Audiobook downloaded from Audible, this details the story of Towner, who returns to her home town of Salem Mass., after her great aunt goes missing. She has spent years away on the other side of the country and her return makes her start to confront many secrets that have been buried, including the domestic abuse of her aunt, and the sexual abuse of her twin sister and her subsequent suicide.
Towner is an unreliable narrator (she says so right at the beginning), and the time she has spent in the hospital – including the Electric shock therapy - has made her memories go missing or flaky. She also is prone to hallucinations, believing she sees and talks to her aunt despite her being dead. All the women in her family have been “lace readers” – using lace to seek out signs and give advice to those who come seeking it.
The narrator is good, having a nice drawl and able to keep the listener interested. This should not be underestimated when listening to them for 10 hours!
The book is a fine mystery, certainly not a police procedural and definitely different. There are enough different “voices” to keep it from getting stale – Towner, her medical notes, her journals, the snippits from “The lace Reader” that has been written by her great aunt. There is also a good sub story of how the people of Salem are coping with their history of being a “witch town” and how it attracts both the tourist and the “crazies”.
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