Monday, August 4, 2008

Review: The Lace Reader

Summary: 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." -- William Morrow

When Book Club Girl offered her readers the opportunity for an ARC of THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry, I jumped at the chance. This book is getting MAJOR attention -- and deservedly so. I absolutely loved reading this book! From the first line of his book, I was hooked and couldn't put it down (thank goodness my husband played with the kids at the shore so I could just read it!)

There is just so much to say about THE LACE READER that I'm sure I won't do it justice. So many people have already written incredible reviews and I don't know if I can really add much to theirs (I think Lisa at Books on the Brain felt the same way about THE SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ.) The writing is spectacular, the storyline is incredible, and the characters are just so well-developed. (As I read this sentence back, it sounds very trite and not at all what I want to convey.)

The characters is this book are so memorable -- all of them, not just one or two. I usually write a review right after I finish a book, so I won't forget it; however, the story and characters in THE LACE READER have stayed with me for days! Probably one of the most memorable characters that I have "met" in recent years is Towner, the story's narrator. I loved that she begins the book by admitting that she lies all the time. It made me question so much of the story -- it was actually quite fun to read it not knowing if she was telling the truth or if she was "crazy" or not.

To me, THE LACE READER is really about women and especially the power of women. So many of the female characters in this novel were very special in many different ways -- I thought it really reflected the various strengths (and even the weaknesses) that exist in women everywhere. This book also showed how women develop strong friendships and support each other through difficult times.

While I was shocked with many parts of this book, I did begin to suspect one of the major twists towards the end of the novel -- it reminded me of another book that I read a few years ago (I'm not going to say the name and ruin the surprise though.) Having said that, it did not affect my enjoyment of the story one bit. I thought Ms. Barry did an amazing job of weaving the story and bringing it all together at the end.

I'm pretty sure that this book will be huge among book clubs this fall! It really is the "perfect" book club pick, especially one made up of women. There is already a reader's guide which includes many thought-provoking questions. I will definitely be suggesting this book to my book club because I know everyone will just love the story. Not only will it be fun to discuss the surprise ending, but there are also many wonderful themes to talk about as well such as parent-child relationships, the bond between twins, reality versus perception, abused women, faith and spirituality, etc. -- I could go on for quite awhile listing major discussion topics!

The story behind the book and its publication is extremely interesting too. Ms. Barry originally self-published this novel; and it was so popular that mainstream publishers became interested. Last October, it was auctioned and sold (along with a future novel) for $2 million; and foreign rights have already been sold in 21 countries.

William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins, is really going the extra mile in promoting this book! They have developed a huge national marketing campaign. There is a contest going on right now where you can win a weekend for two in Salem, Massachusetts along with lots of other goodies. There is even a video hosted by Ms. Barry where she takes talks about the book and some of the sites in Salem, MA -- it's really interesting! In addition, there is a beautiful lace-filled website where you can see a trailer for the book, read reviews, and learn more about lace reading and the author.

There are so many great reviews that I've seen in the last week or so, but I can't remember where I saw them! If you have posted a review for THE LACE READER, please leave a comment, so I can put the link in this review.

More good news: I just read that THE LACE READER was selected to be Costco's August Book Club pick!

Also reviewed at:
Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker
She is Too Fond of Books


Anna said...

I'm usually put off by unreliable narrators, but your review makes me still want to check out this book. It sounds like a great read.

Kelly said...

Thanks for your review, I really want to read this book!

Amanda said...

I won this book from the Book Club Girl as well and totally loved it. I added a link to your review on my blog:

Darlene said...

I had gotten a copy of this novel from Book Club Girl also and just fell in love with it. It's such an incredible novel and I agree words just can't completely encompass what a great book it is. You just have to read it. Great review!

April said...

This sounds like a good book. I heard many great things about it and hopefully will get to it some day, lol!

Amy said...

But the question is..did you like it? :)

I enjoyed this book, but would like to ban publishers from mentioning there's a twist in their blurbs.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your review makes me wish I had this book right here, right now!

Anonymous said...


To have received an ARC of The Lace Reader definitely means you have arrived in the book world. Congrats on this exciting development and keep up the great reads and reviews.

This could be one of the biggest book releases this year, looking forward to reading it and now after your review I simply cannot wait.

Thank you for your care and detail, you put the magic back into reading.

Anonymous said...

Julie, yes, this is one of my favorite books of the year! It's not "deep" literary fiction like *The Septembers of Shiraz*, which left me THINKING for days; *The Lace Reader* is well-written with an intricate plot and developed characters. I love all the local references to Salem which truly reflect the nature/personality of the city. The themes of the strong female characters, and parallels to the Salem Witch Trials and the Underground Railway are striking.

My review is here