Review : The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Pages : 390
Genre : Fiction, Magical Realism
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Towner Whitney comes from a family of lace readers, women who can make lace and read one’s future through it. Twoner hasn’t been practicing lace reading ever since she left Salem, over fifteen years ago. When her great-aunt Eva disappears suddenly, Whitney finds herself forced to move back to the place where she grew up. As the disappearance gets resolved and the disappearance of a young woman comes shaking the community of Salem, Towner is faced with memories from her past, a past she had almost forgotten everything about.

My Thoughts :

Let met tell you, it’s really hard to summarize this book without spoiling any of it. Sadly I feel like the Goodreads’ summary spoils way too much of the story, unlike the really short one at the back of my book, but the great news is, there is still much more to surprise the reader in this atmospheric, mysterious novel.

The first thing Towner lets you know as the novel starts is that she is an unreliable narrator. She will tell you that she lies all the time, then move on with her story and almost never mention it again. This creates a certain uneasiness as you read, constantly wondering “What is she lying about? Is she lying about anything at all?”

The Lace Reader is also a story of grief. In Salem more than anywhere else, Towner lives with constant reminders of her twin sister’s death when they were teens. As she revisits the past she has forgotten after the shock of the event, she pieces back together the good and the bad, about her sister but also about the women of her family and the residents of Salem. The novel is, indeed, filled with a colorful cast of characters that are sometimes quirky, sometimes strange and sometimes just scary. This might lead you to believe that “normal” takes very little space in this book, but rest assured that every bit of craziness is added in moderation, giving it the depth of some of the most realistic contemporary fiction.

If I had to hold one thing against this novel, it would be the sudden shift in narration. To say it simply, The Lace Reader is told in a first person narration until it isn’t. And then it is again. But then it’s not. I don’t mind alternating different types of narrations in one novel, but the fact that the first change happens after the first 150 pages was really weird to me. I would guess this was done to add to the construction of the mystery, but I would have preferred to have the whole novel in third person, with smalls chapters in first person when, for instance, we are reading Towner’s journal.

There is a final twist that was really interesting, too. I think if you pay attention to detail you will see it coming, but what I loved was that even though I did, I hadn’t guessed some of the specifics and so it still made for an amazing ending. Reading it changed my perspective on some aspects of the book and I immediately had to go back and re-read some parts after that. Because even though I did pay attention to detail, I was amazed by Barry’s skill to add them in very subtle ways through the narration. You’ll read some of them innocently and then realize later that they were in fact important clues. Loved that!

The Lace Reader was a beautifully craft mystery that I enjoyed immensely. Its slow pace and dark atmosphere made it a perfect read at this time of the year, and I’m really glad I picked it as my first read for this year’s R.I.P. challenge. It has a lot to offer for discussions, too, and I know I have to let it sit on my shelves for a while to make a final decision on its rating. It might be higher, and if it doesn’t become one of this year’s favorites, and will definitely be close to.

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9 responses to “Review : The Lace Reader”

  1. Amanda says :

    I agree with everything you wrote here! I listened to this on audio and was really jarred the first time it switched into third person. It felt so strange that far into the book! I didn’t figure out the end, though. I had ideas about it, but not that specific idea. I know one day I’ll reread this knowing the twists and it’ll be like a whole different experience!

  2. toothy says :

    i read barry’s other novel, the map of true places, last year and absolutely loved it! i have this one sitting on my bookshelf somewhere, but i haven’t gotten around to it just yet. it looks like i need to dig it out and read though!

  3. BermudaOnion says :

    I love unreliable narrators – they add such a fun element to a book. This sounds great!

  4. Samantha says :

    I loved this book when I read but unlike you I never saw the ending coming. I find that I’m drawn to books with unreliable narrators and this book kept me guessing throughout. I’m planning on rereading it at some point but not until after I read the author’s other book. Great review!

  5. zibilee says :

    I read this one quite awhile ago with my book club, and felt that it was a really unique read. I can’t remember if I saw the ending coming, but I definitely had inklings of what was going to happen, and I am not sure if that is because I had read some spoilery summaries or not. There truly was a lot going on in this book, and though it wasn’t a favorite for me, I really did appreciate what Barry created within the pages. I am glad to hear that you had such a wonderful experience with it. It certainly was a very interesting read!

  6. natalie @ book, line, and sinker says :

    i listened to this one last year at the recommendation of another blogger and really enjoyed it. glad you liked it, too! have you read any other barry books?

  7. Kailana says :

    I really enjoyed this book when I read it. I am glad you did, too! I agree with your thoughts on it almost exactly! I must get around to reading her other book.

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