Book Review: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

lacereaderTitle: 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.

brunoniaIn 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.


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23 Responses to Book Review: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

  1. Melody says:

    I’ve heard a lot of good reviews on this book so I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the review!
    .-= Melody´s last blog ..BBAW: Reading Meme =-.

  2. Kathy says:

    I love a book with a great surprise like that – this one sounds wonderful!
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..BBAW – Reading Meme =-.

  3. Ladytink_534 says:

    Glad you enjoyed this! I still haven’t made up my mind whether or not I’m going to pick it up though I’ve been curious about it since it came out.
    .-= Ladytink_534´s last blog ..Surviving the Wild =-.

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I have this book sitting on my shelf. I bought it on my recent trip to Chicago. I’m hoping to read it in October…I have no ARCs, no tours, no nothing. Just a month wide open for reading fun!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..BBAW: Thanks to blogging… =-.

  5. trish says:

    I’m so glad you liked it, Carrie! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, and when I turned the last page I liked it even more!

    Thanks for putting so much effort into your review! I love having you on tours. 🙂

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Thanks, Trish – I’ve been very lucky with my tour books so far – I’ve loved them all!

  6. stacybuckeye says:

    This one is on on my wish list, but your review really has me itching to get it. Great review. Love books that sneak up on me 🙂
    .-= stacybuckeye´s last blog ..The State of my Blog =-.

  7. I almost volunteered for this tour but decided my other commitments were enough. I do want to read this book though and am looking forward to it. I am glad you enjoyed it, Carrie!
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..BBAW: Book Giveaway #5 =-.

  8. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna

    I’m planning on reading this book sometime this fall. Thanks for the review – I can’t wait to get to it now!
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..CHALLENGE: Clear Off Your Shelves 2009 =-.

  9. I adored this book last summer, glad you liked it too!
    .-= Jen – Devourer of Books´s last blog ..Crossing Washington Square – Book Review =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Jen – I’m pretty sure yours was one of the reviews that made me want to read it!

  10. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: September 19, 2009

  11. Pingback: Brunonia Barry – The Lace Reader « Fyrefly's Book Blog

  12. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – November 29, 2009 (The “buy-books-for-the-holidays” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  13. Jhonard says:

    Im still a beginner to read books, do you think, i could understand this book even i don’t have experience in reading novels?