Towner Whitney, a woman who returns home to Salem, MA after a long absence is no witch in a city of witches. However, she and the other women in her family are Lace Readers. Whitney you see is our emotional focal point in The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.
Who are Lace Readers? Lace readers can be likened to readers of tea-leaves. And like those who divine fortunes in the patterns of tea, lace can also be interpreted to coax out truth. Lace Reading is not the only odd occupation of Towner Whitney’s family.
After all, her mother runs a refuge for battered women on an island off shore, her Great Aunt was the community’s resident Emily Post; and her uncle is the town’s evangelist, complete with robed disciples. You can imagine why Towner left town but that is only the beginning of the strange, tragic story of Towner Whitney. It is a small town and everybody seems to know Towner Whitney’s story, including the police department’s newest detective. Everyone knows, except Towner herself. She can only seem to remember pieces of her past.
The Lace Reader is deliciously obtuse. As a reader, you know that there something going on, but it is between the words on the page. You don’t know what it is, at least we didn’t. We’re not lace readers or any kind of fortune teller, obviously. Barry is enigmatically clever and really only reveals there is more to the story near the book’s climax.
The last line of page 343 made the reader sit up in bed, ignore the early set alarm clock and plow through to the end. It was a very fast, wonderful 40 pages. Barry skillfully writes the end of the book as if she is slowly lifting the veil of lace she put over the reader’s eyes.
Barry received many accolades for the well-received book and for good reason. Her second novel, The Map of True Places was released earlier this month. It was already of Boston Book Bums ‘to be read list,’ but after finishing The Lace Reader, it is time to move it to the top of pile. Keep an eye of The Map of True Places review in coming weeks.
THE LACE READER was borrowed from the local public library for our biblioholic enjoyment.