Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Brunonia Barry has given us a provocative, unique and very compelling debut novel. The story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, the perfect setting for this full-blown, mystic, and tormented tale. Towner, the main character, is from a family of psychic lace readers, although they do have visions and premonitions without reading lace as well. Towner, who changed her name from Sophya, can also read lace. She is a tormented soul with visions of her twin sister, Lyndley, who had died. She has been in and out of hospitals, often with mis-diagnoses and has even taken shock treatment, not realizing how important her visions are. Towner considers herself crazy, genetically crazy in fact.

The main lace reader is her great aunt Eva, although the whole family is able to read the lace, except perhaps her brother Beezer. The disappearance of Eva, who has been Towner’s anchor and mothering influence, brings her back from California. Having just had surgery, the return has been especially hard on her. Her mother, May, is a complicated woman and Towner does not get along well with her. When she enters Eva’s home, she feels her presence and knows she has come back. She “sees” her and talks to her and so sets the mood of the story. There are so many secrets, references to the old Salem witch trials, tourism featuring witches, mysteries, religious fanatics and many other interests in the story that it keeps the attention and wonder going all through. The ending took me completely by surprise, as it should. In fact, there are surprises throughout. I thoroughly loved the book, and want to read it again soon, I’m sure there are many things I missed the first time. I was so taken with the Ipswich lace and lace reading, I even looked it up and am adding a couple of quotes and a website at the end of this review. I highly recommend this book to anyone who dreams. I would say it suits several genres, mystery, fantasy, history, medical, psyche, abuse, reality and more.

Author’s note: “...loosely set in 1996, but I have combined Salem details I found interesting from other years in the same decade...”

Quote from The Laces Of Ipswich : The Art And Economics Of An Early American Industry, 1750-1840 by Marta Cotterell Raffel: “In its lace making heyday in the late eighteenth century, Ipswich, Massachusetts boasted 600 lace makers in a town of only 601 households.”

An article of interest from the Salem Gazette:

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