Title: The Lace Reader
Author: Brunonia Barry
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: TLC Book Tours
First line(s): 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 almost said no to the book tour for The Lace Reader, knowing that I had other tours and review commitments in the month of September. If I had, I would have missed out on an astoundingly good read.
Towner Whitney is the main character, and also the first-person narrator through most of the book. She herself admits that she lies, and warns us not to believe her. She also tells us she’s crazy. So begins this novel full of so many layers and twists and turns that I couldn’t put it down. Towner is called back to Salem, Massachusetts, because her great-aunt Eva has disappeared. Salem is the last place Towner wants to go, knowing that when she gets there she will have to face her mother, May, her Aunt Emma and Uncle Cal, her ex-boyfriend Jack – all the people who make up her story and past, the story and past she has tried so desperately to forget.
The women in Towner’s family are lace readers – they can do a “reading” or tell a fortune by gazing at someone’s face through a piece of lace. Towner also has the gift of precognition, but the visions she sees and the voices she hears are sometimes from the past, sometimes from the present or future, and sometimes products of her own mind. These voices, ghosts, and images from Towner’s past are what keep her from truly embracing her present or looking ahead to the future.
I can’t give much more of a plot summary than that without giving too much away, and you do not want to have this book spoiled for you. I read a lot, and so it isn’t very often that a book surprises me, but this book succeeded in catching me completely off guard – so much so that, at one point, I closed the book and sat thinking over all of the previous story, trying to see how things fit together and how it managed to sneak up on me like that. This made for a fantastic reading experience.
In The Lace Reader, Ms. Barry explores the idea of childhood memories and how our experiences growing up shape us. How much of who we become is nature; how much is nurture? To what lengths will a child go to protect themselves and their mind from the memories of abuse and neglect? How does a person grow past a dysfunctional childhood and become an emotionally functioning adult? All of these questions are explored – and so much more.
The characters in this novel are richly drawn, with Cal Boynton one of the most evil and menacing characters I’ve read in a long time. Towner’s character is a true puzzle, because you’re never sure how much of what she’s telling you is accurate, and yet I loved her and empathized with her and so wanted her story to have a happy ending.
I highly recommend this book – it has everything you could want in a reading experience: atmosphere, mystery, love, family, and a page-turning plot. Plus, just to keep things interesting, there are witches and dogs and John the Baptist and fortune tellers and Red Hat ladies.