The Lace Reader: A Novel Info

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Every gift has a price . . . every piece of lace has a
secret.

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator,
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. Now the disappearance of two women is bringing Towner back
home to Salem—and is bringing to light the shocking truth
about the death of her twin sister.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Lace Reader: A Novel:

1

Aug 28, 2008

If you liked THE LIFE OF PI, you might like this book. I didn't, and I wasn't real fond of this one by the time I got to the end of it. If that's a spoiler, so be it. This book actually made me mad.
Okay, so this book is about a family of women with "the sight," who can read a person's future through lace. Except there's very little actual lace reading that goes on in the book. There's a fair bit of lace making, but no reading. The heroine has been estranged from her relatives, living on the If you liked THE LIFE OF PI, you might like this book. I didn't, and I wasn't real fond of this one by the time I got to the end of it. If that's a spoiler, so be it. This book actually made me mad.
Okay, so this book is about a family of women with "the sight," who can read a person's future through lace. Except there's very little actual lace reading that goes on in the book. There's a fair bit of lace making, but no reading. The heroine has been estranged from her relatives, living on the opposite coast, until her great aunt falls ill. She goes home to this aunt--who dies before she gets there. There is a whole lot of painful backstory exploration of the heroine's dead twin sister who was given away as an infant and suffered awful things and is now dead. There's a young woman who's been caught up in a cult led by an ex-relative of the family. There's a detective who's slowly falling for the heroine. The author gets you to invest a whole lot of energy and belief in the story which seems to be wrapping up nicely, and then at the end, you discover that almost everything you were led to believe was a lie, and there's not enough story left to allow the reader to adjust to the new reality, which is apparently the real reality...and the whole book is painful and disturbing and dissatisfying. At least it was for me. I felt like I had been misled and that the trust I gave the author to lead me through the story to a satisfying ending was totally betrayed. I didn't Hate the book. But I didn't like it. ...more
2

Sep 02, 2008

The concept gets an A, the execution gets a C. The book is just a mess! In serious need of editing and rearrangement. I was often confused because it was hard to tell reality from dreams from hallucinations from delusions from memories. There were a lot of good ideas, but so many of them were totally unnecessary and others weren't fully fleshed-out. The author should have saved some of those ideas for other stories and developed them further (and maybe she will). As the book went on, the author The concept gets an A, the execution gets a C. The book is just a mess! In serious need of editing and rearrangement. I was often confused because it was hard to tell reality from dreams from hallucinations from delusions from memories. There were a lot of good ideas, but so many of them were totally unnecessary and others weren't fully fleshed-out. The author should have saved some of those ideas for other stories and developed them further (and maybe she will). As the book went on, the author seemed to gain more control of her writing and her story, but by then, it was too late. The damage had been done. Interesting ideas, dark and damaged characters (an understatement!), but lots of problems with the plotting and the writing drag the book down. With some assistance, though, the author could produce some interesting work. ...more
3

Aug 18, 2008

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm biased in regards to this book, because this October, I'll be traveling to the North Shore and Salem for my honeymoon. So I was predisposed to enjoy the admittedly captivating descriptions of a city poised between the past and the (heavily marketed, witch-industry-based) future. But for everything wonderful about this book, there were other things that were muddy. Although the book warns the reader from literally the very beginning that we'll be seeing things through the eyes of someone who I'm biased in regards to this book, because this October, I'll be traveling to the North Shore and Salem for my honeymoon. So I was predisposed to enjoy the admittedly captivating descriptions of a city poised between the past and the (heavily marketed, witch-industry-based) future. But for everything wonderful about this book, there were other things that were muddy. Although the book warns the reader from literally the very beginning that we'll be seeing things through the eyes of someone who lies and doesn't remember the truth clearly, still...the lack of a cohesive clear familial structure and Towner's frequent sick spells and confusion are dizzyingly distracting from the plot. The resulting feeling is like reading a vortex...it can make you sick after a while.

I've read other reviews that liken the big "twist" at the end of the book to The Sixth Sense. I would liken it more to Fight Club, where Tyler Durden is the made-up alter-ego of the main character. But it can be interpreted either way...Was Towner's sister really supernaturally "possessing her" during times she wanted to seem more rambunctious? Or was her sister an imaginary coping mechanism for abuse? What really happened to Towner...did she stay at the island year-round, or go away with her "sister"? All sorts of questions are left unanswered at the end of the book, and it is up to the reader to decide for him/herself what really happened.

Normally I love this kind of open-ended book, but the strange familial relationships (wait...so who is Eva then? Her sister was given away at birth? Is that really her brother then?) kept distracting me from enjoying what I was reading.

A brilliant concept of a novel, especially with the idea of lace-reading and the setting of Salem, but executed a bit less masterfully than I would have preferred.

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2

Apr 20, 2009

Reading this book is like falling asleep in a moderately interesting class. A moment flutters by that briefly captures your imagination, but mainly things are just droning along. Droning, that is, until the last moment when the teacher starts ranting and throwing things. Wow! I'm awake, I'm awake--what's happening? This book has one of those crazy twist endings that just doesn't make sense, and you suspect that you missed something since you were, after all, practically asleep. But you didn't. Reading this book is like falling asleep in a moderately interesting class. A moment flutters by that briefly captures your imagination, but mainly things are just droning along. Droning, that is, until the last moment when the teacher starts ranting and throwing things. Wow! I'm awake, I'm awake--what's happening? This book has one of those crazy twist endings that just doesn't make sense, and you suspect that you missed something since you were, after all, practically asleep. But you didn't. It's just a bad ending to a relatively dull book. I don't need authors to connect all the dots for me or make endings into neatly wrapped packages, but this was too messy. It's not that there are unanswered questions, it's that I'm not even sure what questions to ask. I suspect that the opening line of this book, where the main character warns us that she is a liar, was added after it was finished as an excuse for the flimsy and unconvincing ending. ...more
4

Jul 01, 2008

Ever found yourself finishing a book out of obligation, to the book itself? That vague but relentless guilt that settles in when you have figured out exactly where this story is going and where it will wind up, but you started the book, so you really ought to finish it? Go to your favorite bookseller and pick up Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader today. Now.
First, to give props where props are due, I apologize, Ms Barry. I thought I had it all figured out. I loved Towner, finding a woman I would Ever found yourself finishing a book out of obligation, to the book itself? That vague but relentless guilt that settles in when you have figured out exactly where this story is going and where it will wind up, but you started the book, so you really ought to finish it? Go to your favorite bookseller and pick up Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader today. Now.
First, to give props where props are due, I apologize, Ms Barry. I thought I had it all figured out. I loved Towner, finding a woman I would love to walk with, talk with, correspond with. I loved her voice, wry and unflinching. I respected her self-knowledge and her willingness to do what she knew was right for her, no matter what her family might have thought.
It’s a good thing I liked her voice. It was the only thing that kept me reading past Chapter [the funeral]. I understood that there was a greater mystery at the heart of this story, but frankly, just didn’t care enough to wait this long to find out what it was. It was Towner’s voice, pure and simple, that kept me reading, waiting to hear what she would out with next. I’m glad that I did.
Readers will find themselves, their loved ones, their not-so-loved ones, and a host of new friends in this novel. I do hope she returns to Salem, to Towner and R----[detective], to [Mother and Local Witch]. I want to know more about them. Perhaps more importantly, I want to spend more time with them.
In the end, Ms Barry managed to overturn my expectations, take me by surprise, and yet leave me with the feeling that if I had just read a tiny bit closer, perhaps . . . but then again, perhaps not. If you are tired of knowing the end from the beginning, if you are ready to meet some people and perhaps change your point of view, you must delve into The Lace Reader.
Personally, as someone who is always looking an engrossing story, intriguing characters, and an author I can travel along with over time, the bottom line is “Would I read her next book?”
I’ll be waiting.
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3

Sep 11, 2008

This book didn’t quite live up to my expectations for it but overall, I thought it was okay. That makes me a little sad because there were several elements to this book that seemed like they would be wildly interesting when they were all mixed together in the same book and I was hoping to really love it. A quick rundown of the things that happened include the mysterious death of Eva Whitney, suicide, the disappearance of a young woman, mental illness, sexual abuse, rape, witchcraft, This book didn’t quite live up to my expectations for it but overall, I thought it was okay. That makes me a little sad because there were several elements to this book that seemed like they would be wildly interesting when they were all mixed together in the same book and I was hoping to really love it. A quick rundown of the things that happened include the mysterious death of Eva Whitney, suicide, the disappearance of a young woman, mental illness, sexual abuse, rape, witchcraft, fortune-telling, eccentric women and a Christian cult, all set in the backdrop of modern day Salem, MA.

The story is not told in a linear fashion and the unusual events from the past are fleshed out through a series of flashbacks, dreams and hallucinations. So it is the reader’s job to match up the present day events with what may or may not have happened in the past. I really liked that technique. Towner Whitney is the main character and the primary narrator of the story. However, she flat out tells you on the first page of the story that she doesn’t tell the truth, that there are “holes” from the past where she admittedly does not remember what happened and that she has been hospitalized for mental illness. And so differentiating between her hallucinations, her invented history and the true facts that are slowly learned through the actions of other characters make for a very wild ride.

Overall, the story was very engrossing but something didn’t totally gel for me. Unfortunately I can’t quite put my finger on it, although I suspect my issues were with Towner herself. She never felt like a real person to me and I was never able to see her. The same for Detective Rafferty, who is investigating the death of Eva, the disappearance of Angela and trying to build a strong enough case to drive the Christian cult out of town, once and for all. He also falls in love with Towner and when that happened, I was like, “oh Rly? Um, okay, I guess.” I really liked Eva (even though she was dead before the book even started) and I also liked all the scenes with Cal Boynton, the cult leader, and his crazy band of followers.

I love cult members! They're so freaky!
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5

Sep 25, 2007

Towner Whitney is forced to return to Salem MA, after an absence of almost 15 years, when her Great-Aunt Eva goes missing. Once she is back in Salem Towner soon finds out that she will need to confront the ghosts of her past in order to move on into her future. Through a series of flashbacks and memories the reader finds out that the Whitney family is not quite what they seem. The story is filled with a cast of eccentric characters from Towner's mother May who refuses to step a foot off the Towner Whitney is forced to return to Salem MA, after an absence of almost 15 years, when her Great-Aunt Eva goes missing. Once she is back in Salem Towner soon finds out that she will need to confront the ghosts of her past in order to move on into her future. Through a series of flashbacks and memories the reader finds out that the Whitney family is not quite what they seem. The story is filled with a cast of eccentric characters from Towner's mother May who refuses to step a foot off the island she lives on, to her uncle Calvin who has been saved and has started his own religious cult at a local campground, to a collection of witches who seem to have gravitated to Salem because of it's historical past.
The writing in this story is excellent and there were many features that made this book appeal to me. Each chapter is prefaced with a quote from The Lace Reader's Guide by Eva Whitney which is a convention I found appealing in itself. However, these little excerpts do more than just introduce the tone of each chapter, They end up providing important foreshadowing of what is to come later in the book. Meanwhile, the true story of Towner's family is revealed to the reader slowly, memory by painful memory, as Towner actually draws her past back to her consciousness out from the mental "lock-box" where she has stored all her Salem memories away. Then, one final twist at the very end of the story makes the reader to want to go back and start the story all over again, re-reading it with the new eyes.
This is a great book that will keep you guessing throughout. ...more
2

Mar 25, 2009

I liked this book at first because of the visual setting of Salem and Marblehead, the unusual dysfunctional family, and the mystery of the aunt's death. As the story progresses it just gets tangled in its own web or lace as it were, a story in search of a flashy ending which is provided but somehow unsatisfying.
2

Jun 18, 2013

Just found this while rummaging through my Goodreads shelves and realized I have to change the rating. Many books later, I now realize this can't possibly be more than two stars. The most cliche-ridden and sad little book ever. Whiny and ditzy main character. Eye rolling romance. Almost no "lace reading magic". Just... NO.
5

Sep 26, 2018

This was such an unexpected gem amongst my tbr pile and I’m so glad I finally picked it up and read it. As soon as I read the back of the book and the narrator pretty much told us she was an unreliable narrator, I was hooked! I loved everything about this story, from the setting to the plot to the characters and everything in between. Especially the whole concept of Lace Readers, I fell instantly in love with it! And I knew since we had an unreliable narrator that there would be some pretty big This was such an unexpected gem amongst my tbr pile and I’m so glad I finally picked it up and read it. As soon as I read the back of the book and the narrator pretty much told us she was an unreliable narrator, I was hooked! I loved everything about this story, from the setting to the plot to the characters and everything in between. Especially the whole concept of Lace Readers, I fell instantly in love with it! And I knew since we had an unreliable narrator that there would be some pretty big crazy reveal somewhere but I still didn’t see it coming and it left me reeling! ...more
3

Jun 26, 2010

There were things I definitely liked about this book, the psychology for one and the visual of Salem, MA for another, but the organization of the book bothered me.
-Over a hundred pages into it, Barry shifts POVs and even then jumps around a bit between perspectives.
-Twice, she uses documents to tell her story, which is a great literary technique, but again they come late in the book and the second one takes up sixty pages. It was a little jarring (ironically, those sixty pages were my favorite There were things I definitely liked about this book, the psychology for one and the visual of Salem, MA for another, but the organization of the book bothered me.
-Over a hundred pages into it, Barry shifts POVs and even then jumps around a bit between perspectives.
-Twice, she uses documents to tell her story, which is a great literary technique, but again they come late in the book and the second one takes up sixty pages. It was a little jarring (ironically, those sixty pages were my favorite part of the book).
-Maybe it's because I've read another book with the same twist at the end, but it felt a little gimmicky to me, that Barry had been withholding the information for a ta-da ending. I think if I believed more that Towner didn't get that ending that I would have been surprised right along with her, but I think, looking back, that sometimes she understood the truth, at least part of it, and didn't explain it to the reader.
-And most of the book, I couldn't figure out what the story was about, if it was a mystery or a story about redemption or a love story or just a story about the love of New England (Barry goes a little overboard sometimes in her descriptions of Salem). And yes, yes, yes, and yes, but not in the way you'd think. All of them become introspective aspects of Towner's story. If I had understood that the book was about her and what was going in her life and her head and not the external forces battling for screen time around her, I would have gotten into the story earlier.

It took me ten days to find time to read the first 200 pages and a day to read the last 185. Once I got into the story, I liked it. I loved that Towner was an unreliable narrator. I loved that I could "see" this story, that the setting and characters were all vivid and fleshed out and flawed. And I liked that even though I got that Towner's history was off and I thought I'd figured her out, I was still surprised by the revelation at the end. I liked what it changed about the characters I thought I already understood, particularly May, and how much it made me empathize with Towner and her family. The book is lengthier than it needs to be and has some stylistic issues, but it was still a good read. ...more
3

Jul 12, 2008

My biggest issue with this book was the switching of points of view. I don't feel that it added all that much to the story, except to leave us all the more confused by the end. This story would have best been told completely in 3rd person, saving us the momentary pull out of the story when we get to a new chapter and realize that this isn't Towner's point of view. In the end, it feels as though the only reason for the chapters in Towner's pov were solely to give us the effect of confusion at the My biggest issue with this book was the switching of points of view. I don't feel that it added all that much to the story, except to leave us all the more confused by the end. This story would have best been told completely in 3rd person, saving us the momentary pull out of the story when we get to a new chapter and realize that this isn't Towner's point of view. In the end, it feels as though the only reason for the chapters in Towner's pov were solely to give us the effect of confusion at the end, which I assume is supposed to force us to go back and read the book all over again, with this new information now in mind. A good trick, if it works. I have gone back and reread a book or rewatched a movie to see what I missed that would have hinted at the "twist." Unfortunately, I don't feel as compelled with this one. I also would have preferred to have just small sections as excerpts from the Lace Reader's Guide instead of them starting each chapter. I found myself wanting to read more of the guide, and being disappointed when the snippet ended and I was back in, because of the jumping points of view, often felt like a mixture of journal entries and short stories as opposed to one large novel.

I give it three stars for effort and for creativity, really. There were a lot of really interesting characters, and honestly, this makes me want to hop a plane and visit Salem, take in the history and the atmosphere. The idea of this book and Towner's voice are what first compelled me to read the entire thing after going through the first couple of chapters. Maybe, then, losing Towner's voice, and the addition that she's just crazy, are what left me merely compelled in the last hundred pages or so just to finish the book. ...more
5

Nov 17, 2009

When I first saw this book cover, I had a mental Will Smith moment: “Awwww, hell no!” I thought it was the same as those novels centered around knitting or quilting but that lace was the new vehicle. Boy, was I wrong! It’s about so much more than lace reading (a kind of fortune telling based on the reading of lace), but I’m not here to plot summarize. I’ll say what I always say when I think a story is full of excellent twists. Be careful which reviews you read! I loved, loved, loved this story. When I first saw this book cover, I had a mental Will Smith moment: “Awwww, hell no!” I thought it was the same as those novels centered around knitting or quilting but that lace was the new vehicle. Boy, was I wrong! It’s about so much more than lace reading (a kind of fortune telling based on the reading of lace), but I’m not here to plot summarize. I’ll say what I always say when I think a story is full of excellent twists. Be careful which reviews you read! I loved, loved, loved this story. It’s not some piece of literature that’s going to have a profound effect on your life once you’ve finished reading it, but it is the kind of story that draws you in & gives you something to look forward to during those moments of anticipation between chapters. If you like Salem, sketchy & eccentric characters, or stories where people look back on youth spent in a magical atmosphere (in their aunt’s rambling Victorian home or on some barely-populated island), then this book is for you. If you like just a hint of a ghost story but not a cheesy full-on haunting, this book is also for you. My favorite stories are those in which the main characters dig up long-buried family secrets, secrets which threaten to rewrite the history they thought they knew. Right before this novel, I read a similar one, as far as “skeletons in the closet," called The Monsters of Templeton. I couldn’t have picked better back-to-back reading than Lauren Groff & Brunonia Barry. Finally, please don’t be turned off by reviewers’ mention of the unreliable narrator in The Lace Reader. It’s truly part of the novel’s fun, and by the end, I think most of you will be satisfied with the explanation of events. ...more
1

May 18, 2010

I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews of The Lace Reader and against my better judgment, tried it out anyway. Mystery, cool psychic powers which involve reading fortune through a piece of lace, New England setting (Salem, MA even)… despite all of this, this novel was a chore.

The audio version barely kept me entertained on my way to work. Halfway through I was tempted to chuck it, but then remembered how terribly behind I am in the Goodreads yearly challenge =( So, I did something I never, ever do I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews of The Lace Reader and against my better judgment, tried it out anyway. Mystery, cool psychic powers which involve reading fortune through a piece of lace, New England setting (Salem, MA even)… despite all of this, this novel was a chore.

The audio version barely kept me entertained on my way to work. Halfway through I was tempted to chuck it, but then remembered how terribly behind I am in the Goodreads yearly challenge =( So, I did something I never, ever do and read some reviews with spoilers to see if the ending was any good. *shoulder shrug* Knowing the big secret in advance made some parts more tolerable, but overall The Lace Reader is a waste of time.

Is this a story of a woman come home to face personal, family and childhood demons? A family saga? Modern day witches vs. modern day fanatics in Salem? (excuse my massive eye-rolling at the “cleverness” of that plot line) A story about the psychic and paranormal? Family drama, New England setting, paranormal vs. mental illness are some of my all-time favorite book topics, but they all failed miserably here. The Lace Reader begins with Towner (or possibly Sophya, pronounced “sof-eye-ya” And tell me, which name is more pretentious?) traveling home to Salem, MA for the first time in years. Fifteen perhaps? Maybe more. At any rate she is home again and the reader is subject to a poorly put together mystery involving a few disappearances, Towner’s (Sophya’s) past, her family issues, a religious cult, their issues…. In addition to these plots (and so many more which are woven together…like a fine piece of lace *barf*) the book contains multiple rambling passages involving the history of Salem, the history of Towner (Sophya) and so many other people in this book. Towards the end, in a fairly intense and climactic action scene Towner (Sophya) has a thought which leads to a recollection and the reader is forced to endure a break in the action while travelling down memory lane with Towner (Sophya) for quite a few minutes. Annoying? Hell yes. In addition to the rambling plot and the rambling rambles, the book suddenly shifts POV midway through from Towner (Sophya) to the lurve interest then back to Towner (Sophya).

Organizationally, the whole thing is a mess. IMO it would have done so much better had it been edited and organized to a shorter, neater novel. Or stretched out to a two or three part series. As it is? A waste of time. Had this been done a little differently it could have been enjoyable. Probably.
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5

Jan 22, 2017

This spellbinding story is primarily told by Towner Whitney,Brunonia Barry's self-confessed unreliable narrator: “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.” However, the first-person point of view shifts to a third-person adding to the mysterious narrative.

Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the novel interlaces historic references with modern allusions that waver between somber and glib, creating an evocative, This spellbinding story is primarily told by Towner Whitney,Brunonia Barry's self-confessed unreliable narrator: “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.” However, the first-person point of view shifts to a third-person adding to the mysterious narrative.

Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the novel interlaces historic references with modern allusions that waver between somber and glib, creating an evocative, unpredictable atmosphere. Witches, Puritans, Ipswitch lace, and the dark waters of Salem harbor all play a part in creating a unique setting for the story.

The writing pulsates with secrecy—laced with hints, half-truths, and haunting details. There is a whopping wrap up at the end that leaves the reader leafing back through the book searching for missed clues.

This one is a great book club selection, as it is ripe for an animated discussion among friends. ...more
1

Oct 20, 2009

The story begins with the central character, Towner Whitney, admitting she's a liar with memory loss issues - so you really don't know what to believe (and after a while you don't much care). Eventually (after plodding through 150 pages of mostly nothing) a mystery plot is introduced. This book is interminable! It's structured in an awkward manner - keeps jumping back and forth leading the reader down blind alleys with lots of scenes going nowhere and serving no purpose to the storyline. There The story begins with the central character, Towner Whitney, admitting she's a liar with memory loss issues - so you really don't know what to believe (and after a while you don't much care). Eventually (after plodding through 150 pages of mostly nothing) a mystery plot is introduced. This book is interminable! It's structured in an awkward manner - keeps jumping back and forth leading the reader down blind alleys with lots of scenes going nowhere and serving no purpose to the storyline. There were so many characters populating this novel each introduced and talked about as if you knew all about them. The Lace Readers has the worst ending ever leaving too many unexplained loose ends! I'm not an idiot that needs everything spelled out but the author spent 400 pages weaving a tale of complete fabrication! Don't waste your money on this one. ...more
3

Aug 21, 2016

I will say this is an interesting concept with a plot twist that left me bewildered at the end. It gets a three star rating for the ending. To clarify- it is not because I disliked the ending. The lower rating is simply due to the fact that such a climactic turn of events should seemingly be explored a bit deeper. The acceptance of it all without too much fanfare was just too unbelievable to allow. I see there is a sequel and I will probably read it because I did like the characters. I loved I will say this is an interesting concept with a plot twist that left me bewildered at the end. It gets a three star rating for the ending. To clarify- it is not because I disliked the ending. The lower rating is simply due to the fact that such a climactic turn of events should seemingly be explored a bit deeper. The acceptance of it all without too much fanfare was just too unbelievable to allow. I see there is a sequel and I will probably read it because I did like the characters. I loved the New England setting and descriptions of Salem. ...more
4

Jan 11, 2009

I really liked this book. I liked the combination of mystery, suspense, romance, family, psychology. It really grabbed my attention at the beginning and kept it all the way through. There were surprises I didn't see coming and now I want to go back and read it again with that perspective! It is provacative and challenging in many respects, so be prepared for that. It isn't an easy, entertaining read--but one that makes you think, hypothesize, and wonder. I enjoyed it a lot.
3

Feb 12, 2017

Amazing plot idea and I loved the atmosphere of Salem , it made me feel like visiting it .

www.theleisurediaries.com
3

Oct 09, 2014

I read this when it was first published in 2008 but decided to read it again when one of my book clubs picked it for our October 2014 selection. The story takes place in Salem, MA, and centers around an old family of women who are 'lace readers'--able to see the future in pieces of Ipswich lace. The main character, Towner Whitney, is summoned back to Salem from her life in California when the body of her Great Aunt Eva is found in the ocean. Returning home sets in motion again all the I read this when it was first published in 2008 but decided to read it again when one of my book clubs picked it for our October 2014 selection. The story takes place in Salem, MA, and centers around an old family of women who are 'lace readers'--able to see the future in pieces of Ipswich lace. The main character, Towner Whitney, is summoned back to Salem from her life in California when the body of her Great Aunt Eva is found in the ocean. Returning home sets in motion again all the dysfunctional family dynamics that drove Towner away fifteen years earlier. The story is told in alternating points of view, as well as through journals, police reports, personal stories that may be pure fiction rather than actual memories.
There is a huge twist to the ending that may make the reader want to reread the book with this new information in mind. Many people in my book club felt cheated by the author because of what was eventually revealed; they felt she had broken a fundamental trust between writer and reader by leading the reader so far astray. ...more
2

Aug 14, 2008

This book wasn't as good as I thought it would be, given all the press it's been getting. I mean, come on already! I hear about it all the time. I do think it's pretty amazing how this self-published author has now signed with HarperCollins or some other big publisher...but about the book. It was a pretty good story with lots of plot twists and an interesting theme exploring truth and reality, but the "surprise ending" is dumped on you like a ton of bricks, and besides, I had already figured it This book wasn't as good as I thought it would be, given all the press it's been getting. I mean, come on already! I hear about it all the time. I do think it's pretty amazing how this self-published author has now signed with HarperCollins or some other big publisher...but about the book. It was a pretty good story with lots of plot twists and an interesting theme exploring truth and reality, but the "surprise ending" is dumped on you like a ton of bricks, and besides, I had already figured it out. Seems like I read a similar plot line in another book. Also, as an editor, I can't help but find mistakes and typos in books, and I found tons of them! including an ENTIRE paragraph that was duplicated in an earlier chapter, and I'm pretty darn sure it wasn't supposed to be there. But that's just my nitpickiness as an editor...you'll probably like this book. The rest of the world seems to. ...more
5

Dec 31, 2008

My boss forced me to read this, and I'm really glad she did. A fabulously unreliable narrator leads to a lovely twist at the end. And Barry's descriptions of Salem, Mass., are so spot-on that anyone who has ever toured there even once will recognize certain landmarks.
4

Aug 13, 2008

At the end of a perfect summer day when the setting sun casts that net of skin-kissing balmy warmth over the land, if you're lucky enough to be driving down a traffic-less country backroad with all the windows open -- or just looking out the window of a city bus at that light hitting the sides of buildings at new and interesting angles, illuminating parts of them you rarely get to see -- you know how sometimes it actually feels like you're on drugs? This book lulls you into exactly that pleasant At the end of a perfect summer day when the setting sun casts that net of skin-kissing balmy warmth over the land, if you're lucky enough to be driving down a traffic-less country backroad with all the windows open -- or just looking out the window of a city bus at that light hitting the sides of buildings at new and interesting angles, illuminating parts of them you rarely get to see -- you know how sometimes it actually feels like you're on drugs? This book lulls you into exactly that pleasant twilit limbo somewhere between living, sleeping, and dreaming.

I'm not sure exactly how -- or why... since I think it's sort of meant to be a commercial beach read? -- but it could be the least offensive summery/marketed-as-women's-lit book I've ever read. It has the option to sell out at every turn, but it doesn't. ...more
2

Dec 03, 2011

I'm always interested in the history of Salem and I wasn't familiar with lace readers so I thought this would be a intriguing read.There was a lot of talk about the characters being readers but other than the blurb at the beginning of each chapter, there was very little knowledge imparted.
This was a murder mystery at heart with some history thrown in. It was a jumbled mess and in my opinion would have benefitted from a total rewrite. I struggled to engage with the characters so the reading I'm always interested in the history of Salem and I wasn't familiar with lace readers so I thought this would be a intriguing read.There was a lot of talk about the characters being readers but other than the blurb at the beginning of each chapter, there was very little knowledge imparted.
This was a murder mystery at heart with some history thrown in. It was a jumbled mess and in my opinion would have benefitted from a total rewrite. I struggled to engage with the characters so the reading dragged on and on. The last quarter of the story actually had some tension and excitement which gave me the oomph I needed to put this book behind me.
...more
5

Sep 04, 2008

Salem, Massachusetts is an unusual town. And the Whitneys are the most unusual family in Salem. Their family roots in Salem go back hundreds of years. They fit right in with the eccentric witches, most of the Whitney women have the ability to sense bits of people's thoughts and see glimpses of the future when they look through a piece of lace.


Towner Whitney is in her early thirties and she has just returned to Salem from her self imposed exile in California because her beloved Great Aunt Eva Salem, Massachusetts is an unusual town. And the Whitneys are the most unusual family in Salem. Their family roots in Salem go back hundreds of years. They fit right in with the eccentric witches, most of the Whitney women have the ability to sense bits of people's thoughts and see glimpses of the future when they look through a piece of lace.


Towner Whitney is in her early thirties and she has just returned to Salem from her self imposed exile in California because her beloved Great Aunt Eva has disappeared. Towner fled to the west coast fifteen years before, running from the violence and grief that was part of her life as a teenager when she lost her twin sister, Lyndley. She is a damaged soul and Salem is the last place she wants to be. Her memories of her life in Salem are sketchy and she struggles to put the pieces of her childhood together while dealing with people from the past that she is not prepared to see.


Eva was in her eighties but still swam in the ocean every day. When her body is found out in the water it's hard to believe that she drowned on her own. The police suspect her estranged son-in-law, Cal. While married to Emma, Eva's daughter, Cal beat her so badly that Emma was left blind and mentally impaired. Somehow he managed to escape any legal penalty and now he is an Evangelist with a very warped following. Towner's return and Eva's death rip open the past and send everyone concerned reeling.


This is a book about the damage that people do to each other and the incredible lengths that the human soul will go to in order to survive. At times haunting, heartbreaking, mystical and magical, it has an ending that will surprise you and show you the healing power of love.

...more

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