Lace Reader, The

By Brunonia Barry
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061624766, 400pp.)

Publication Date: July 29, 2008

List Price: $24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.
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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the August 2008 Indie Next List
“Set in past and present Salem, Massachusetts, the story takes off immediately, interspersing splendid detail about the history of lace makers, as well as the famous witch trials, with the modern story of a family's intricate history. The novel is packed with interesting characters (including modern witches) and many plot lines, which come together magnificently at the conclusion. A truly amazing and riveting read.”
-- Karen M. Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Indie Next List Highlights 2008


Every gift has a price . . .

Every piece of lace has a secret . . .

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. . . .

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, 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, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."

Conversation Starters from


  1. For centuries, women have used lace as an adornment for their clothes and as a decoration for their homes. Just a small piece of lace on a sleeve could evoke a sense of luxury, beauty, and elegance. How does your family use lace today?

Praise For Lace Reader, The

“The Lace Reader is a page-turner, and the ending is almost as shocking as the film The Sixth Sense.”
-Salem Gazette

“Barry’s novel is that rare thing—a literary page-turner worthy for it’s story and for its art.”
-Tom Jenks, editor of Narrative magazine

“Barry weaves a suspenseful tale of witchcraft and dark mystery…Barry’s depictions of time and place are marvelously descriptive.”
-Roxanne Price, Elle

“The Lace Reader challenges the very notion of reality. A compelling, fast-action page turner. A terrific read!”
-Diane Stern, CBS Radio, Boston

“Barry has written a meditative, lyric novel that in its discursive storytelling style full of digressions and expository sections on interesting facts will appeal to people who enjoy savoring a book one section at a time.”
-Raleigh News & Observer

“An ambitious debut. Unusual and otherworldly, this is a blizzard of a story which manages to pull together its historical, supernatural and psychiatric elements. A survivor’s tale of redemption.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“Suspenseful and literary catnip-for-book-clubs...while it’s surprisingly gritty for having “lace” in the title, we’re calling this now as the beach read of ’08.”
-New York magazine

“A spine-tingler set in Salem...[with] an irresistible pull...The Lace Reader is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club.”
-People (People Pick)

“Gripping…a marvelously bizarre cast of characters (living and dead) in a uniquely colorful town.”
-Washington Post Book World

“Barry does a fantastic job of sketching out her characters. The Whitney women, one and all, are intriguingly real.”
-San Antonio Express-News

“What makes Brunonia Barry’s compulsively readable debut even more interesting is the spice added by fillips both psychic and supernatural.”
-Denver Post

“A ‘romance’ in the Nathaniel Hawthorne sense of the word a dark tale of sin and guilt that blends the mundane and the fantastic, with a glimmer of redemptive hope at its core that all the Gothic trappings cannot obscure.”
-Tulsa World

“A gorgeously written literary novel that’s a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping.”
-Chicago Tribune

“An engrossing modern-day twist on the classic Gothic novel….the story both astonishes and satisfies. In short, The Lace Reader is great entertainment.”
-Tampa Tribune

“Surprise endings are tough to pull off--too often they aren’t a surprise to anyone but the main character. To Barry’s credit, she genuinely got me.”
-Christian Science Monitor

“Barry’s modern-day story of Towner Whitney, who has the psychic gift to read the future in lace patterns, is complex but darker in subject matter.... The novel’s gripping and shocking conclusion is a testament to Barry’s creativity.”
-USA Today

“With THE LACE READER, Brunonia Barry plunges us through the looking glass and beyond to a creepy and fascinating world. Prepare to meet strange, brave, bruised, electrically alive women there. Prepare to be riveted by their story and to live under its spell long after you’ve reached its astonishing end.”
-Marisa de los Santos, author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me

“Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters’ inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[A] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic.”
-Time magazine

“[For] fans of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind.”

“The Lace Reader unravels a magical, yet tragic family’s tale...Barry has cleverly and delightfully set us up. With one fell swoop, she cuts the last thread, and the characters she has so carefully created unravel to reveal secrets we had not even begun to guess.”
-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“The Lace Reader casts an enthralling spell...As The Lace Reader unspools, we are drawn into a whirling vortex of deceit. Barry untangles these confusing strands of mystery with an artful precision.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Brunonia Barry has pulled off a major feat with her debut, The Lace Reader: It’s a gorgeously written literary novel that’s also a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping.”
-Dallas Morning News

“What is real in The Lace Reader? What is not? To her credit Ms. Barry makes this story blithe and creepy in equal measure.... And there is much suspense invested in where all the lacunas in Towner’s impressions will lead her...There are clues planted everywhere.”
-New York Times

“Past and present mysteries merge in a fast-moving narrative that builds through a numerous small dramas to a theatrical conclusion.”
-Katherine Turman, Elle

“Evocative, layered, smart, and astonishing, THE LACE READER is a fever dream of a novel that will haunt me for a long time to come. The Salem, Massachusetts that the Whitney women inhabit is a wild, dark place, and I loved every moment that I spent there.”
-Joshilyn Jackson, author of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

“Lovely and captivating...The Lace Reader showcases Barry’s understanding of human nature. A splendid debut novel.”
-Kristin Hannah, author of Firefly Lane

“Finely rendered moments make this a novel to savor—a story as textured as it is imaginative... a story that readers will find as lovely as a swatch of handmade lace.”
-Rocky Mountain News

“Barry’s depictions of her characters’ altered states of consciousness are beautifully rendered. And “The Lace Reader” establishes Brunonia Barry as a force...”
-The Olympian

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