Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Review - The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Hello folks!

So I admit it, I've jumped on the "popular book" bandwagon. I picked up The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry a couple of weeks ago and have just had a chance to sit down and tell you what I think about it.

My opinion in a nutshell: I disagree with any review that calls this a "fast-paced" novel. For me, anyway, it certainly wasn't. I didn't dislike the book; in fact, I enjoyed reading it very much. But you know what I DID like about it? It was one of those books where I could put it down, read something else, and come back to it without losing the train of the book. Each time I read it, I got involved with the story, with the characters, but it wasn't something I just had to read until it was done.

The basic premise, for those who don't know, is that this woman grew up in Salem, MA, in a family of lace readers - women who could read the future in patterns of lace. There is some childhood trauma, and Towner (as she now calls herself - her name used to be Sophya) leaves Salem for good. Many years later, the mysterious death of her beloved great-aunt brings her back to town to face not only the town and the memories she left behind, but the ghosts, both dead and alive, who are still there.

Towner had, at one point following the trauma, been institutionalized, even given shock therapy, and maybe that explains why the book reads in a sort of monotone voice. There is an omniscient narrator; there is Rafferty's voice - he's the police officer/love interest who is investigating not only the great-aunt's (Eva's) death, but also the mysterious disappearance of a young pregnant woman; there is Towner's voice; there is Eva's ghostly voice, lingering through Towner. Throughout all those voices, however, the story doesn't really change in tone or pitch, which is what makes me call it written in monotone. Though a mystery, the story doesn't read as a suspenseful drama, which I think does give a bit of extra oomph to the excitement of the final chapters.

To be honest, the little twist or revelation at the end came as a surprise for me because I hadn't really been aware that that was a plot point! Okay, I'm thinking to myself as I read, so there's the dead great-aunt - was she murdered? what is the real story of her death?; there's the missing girl - was she murdered? who's baby is she carrying? where does she fit in?; there's Towner herself - is she crazy? is she going to stay in town? will she solve these mysteries? what's up with her and Rafferty?; but where's the real suspense to all of this? Perhaps if I had read the book straight through instead of putting it down, I would have picked up on the secret little plot twist before the end, but as it was, I greatly enjoyed the little gasp of surprise I gave at that revelation.

I think I need to go back and read it again, all the way through, so that I can get the full impact others are talking about, because as much as I enjoyed the book for the good read, the suspense just wasn't there for me. I'll tell you one other thing the book did very well, though - I now need to take a trip to Salem, Massachusetts to see how beautiful the town is in person!

Also, Ms. Barry was here in store last night, for a wonderful book reading/talk/signing, so drop on by the Odyssey to pick up your signed copy of The Lace Reader today!


The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Hardcover: 9780061624766 $24.95

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