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 “now…is 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.