The Lace Reader (Hardcover)
William Morrow, 9780061624766, 400pp.
Publication Date: July 29, 2008
Fall '09/Winter '10 Reading Group List
— Angela Rodman, Third Street Books, McMinnville, OR
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August 2008 Indie Next List
— Karen M. Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
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Indie Next List Highlights 2008
— Karen M. Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
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About the Author
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia Barry lives in Salem with her husband and their beloved golden retriever, Byzantium.
Praise For The Lace Reader: A Novel…
— People (People Pick)
“[A] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic.”
— Time magazine
“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
“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
“Gripping…a marvelously bizarre cast of characters (living and dead) in a uniquely colorful town.”
— Washington Post Book World
“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
“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 makes Brunonia Barry’s compulsively readable debut even more interesting is the spice added by fillips both psychic and supernatural.”
— Denver Post
“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
“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
“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
“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
“Barry does a fantastic job of sketching out her characters. The Whitney women, one and all, are intriguingly real.”
— San Antonio Express-News
“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
“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
“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
“[For] fans of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind.”
“Barry weaves a suspenseful tale of witchcraft and dark mystery…Barry’s depictions of time and place are marvelously descriptive.”
— Roxanne Price, Elle
“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
“Past and present mysteries merge in a fast-moving narrative that builds through a numerous small dramas to a theatrical conclusion.”
— Katherine Turman, Elle
“The Lace Reader is a page-turner, and the ending is almost as shocking as the film The Sixth Sense.”
— Salem Gazette
“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
“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
“Lovely and captivating...The Lace Reader showcases Barry’s understanding of human nature. A splendid debut novel.”
— Kristin Hannah, author of Firefly Lane
“The Lace Reader challenges the very notion of reality. A compelling, fast-action page turner. A terrific read!”
— Diane Stern, CBS Radio, Boston
“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
“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
“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
“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
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- 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?
- Is it used everyday or only on special occasions?
- Have any pieces of lace been passed down to you or someone else in your family? If so, what feelings do you associate with these heirloom pieces of lace?
- The author states that The Lace Reader is, at its core, about perception vs. reality. How does Rafferty's perception of Towner color his judgment of what she says and does? What about Rafferty's perception of Cal and his actions?
- At the very start of The Lace Reader, Towner Whitney, the protagonist, tells the reader that she's a liar and that she's crazy. By the end of the book do you agree with her?
- Eva reveals that she speaks in cliche so that her words do not influence the choices made by the recipients of her lace reading sessions. Do you think that's possible? Can a cliche be so over used that it loses its original meaning?
- When May comments on the relationship between Rafferty and Towner, she states that they are too alike and predicts that "You won't just break apart. You'll send each other flying." Did you agree with that when you read it? And if so, in what ways are Towner and Rafferty alike?
- The handmade lace industry of Ipswich quickly vanished when lace making machines were introduced. At that same moment, the economic freedom of the women making the handmade lace also evaporated. Why do you think that these women didn't update their business, buy the machines, and own a significant portion of the new lace making industry?
- Do you think that May's revival of the craft of handmade lace with the abused women on Yellow Dog Island is purely symbolic or could it be, in some way, very practical?
- What role does religion play in the novel? Is there a difference between spirituality and religion? Between faith and blind faith?
- Towner has a special bond with the dogs of Yellow Dog Island-do you agree that people and animals can relate to each other in extraordinary ways?
- How do the excerpts from The Lace Reader's Guide and Towner's journal function in the novel? Does the written word carry more truth than the spoken? Did you use the clues in the Guide to help you understand the rest of the book?
- How much does family history influence who a person becomes? Do you believe that certain traits or talents are genetic and can be inherited?
- Is it possible that twins share a unique bond and how does being a twin affect Towner?
- Can geography influence personality? For instance May lives on an island, does this say something about her?
- If you could learn to read lace and see things about your future, would you?