The Lace Reader (Paperback)

A Novel

By Brunonia Barry

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780061624773, 416pp.

Publication Date: August 18, 2009

List Price: 14.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Fall '09/Winter '10 Reading Group List

“The Lace Reader is a suspenseful intense read that thoughtfully mixes New England history and lore with the present. This is a one-sitting, must-discuss-afterward type of book!”
— Angela Rodman, Third Street Books, McMinnville, OR
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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
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Indie Next List Highlights 2008

“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
View the List

Description

In the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale, Brunonia Barry’s bewitching gothic novel, The Lace Reader, is a phenomenon. Called “[a] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic” by Time Magazine, it is a haunting and remarkable tale told by an unforgettable, if strangely unreliable narrator—a woman from an enigmatic Salem family who can foretell the future in patterns of lace. The Lace Reader was a runaway New York Times bestseller—hitting the top lists in major cities across the country, from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles—and has immediately established debut author Brunonia Barry as a major force in contemporary American fiction.


Praise For The Lace Reader: A Novel

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

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

“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.”

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

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

“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.”

“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.”

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

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

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

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“[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.”

“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.”

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

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

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

“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.”

“Lovely and captivating...The Lace Reader showcases Barry’s understanding of human nature. A splendid debut novel.”

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

“Barry’s novel is that rare thing—a literary page-turner worthy for it’s story and for its art.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. What role does religion play in the novel? Is there a difference between spirituality and religion? Between faith and blind faith?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. How much does family history influence who a person becomes? Do you believe that certain traits or talents are genetic and can be inherited?
  11. Is it possible that twins share a unique bond and how does being a twin affect Towner?
  12. Can geography influence personality? For instance May lives on an island, does this say something about her?