Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: The Lace Reader Brunonia Barry

Pages: 400 Pages
Genre: Adult Fiction, Literary
Published by Harper Press
Release Date: 31/07/2007

Look into the lace . . . When the eyes begin to fill with tears and the patience is long exhausted, there will appear a glimpse of something not quite seen... In this moment, an image will begin to form . . . in the space between what is real and what is only imagined. 

Can you read your future in a piece of lace? All of the Whitney women can. But the last time Towner read, it killed her sister and nearly robbed Towner of her own sanity. Vowing never to read lace again, her resolve is tested when faced with the mysterious, unsolvable disappearance of her beloved Great Aunt Eva, Salem's original Lace Reader. Told from opposing and often unreliable perspectives, the story engages the reader's own beliefs. Should we listen to Towner, who may be losing her mind for the second time? Or should we believe John Rafferty, a no nonsense New York detective, who ran away from the city to a simpler place only to find himself inextricably involved in a psychic tug of war with all three generations of Whitney women? Does either have the whole story? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the swirling pattern of the lace?

'The Lace Reader' is an unusual story that got many different reactions from me whilst reading. There were times when I was bored, confused and considering giving up this novel, but there we also times when I was surprised, shocked, enthralled and wanting more. Even though I am reviewing this book to give you an idea of how you might like it, I recommend regardless of what I write here that you give this book a go. I think this is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself.

The characters in this novel were really strange. Yes strange. Some of them had psychic powers, some of them had mental issues and some of them were just plain weird. I thought the characters fit their setting well and in this context they seemed kind of realistic (which must have been a hard thing for an author to pull off). In the book you could definitely understand the characters on a level and I had definitely grown to like them by the end.

Brunonia Barry's novel is set in Salem. What I thought was really ironic is that the town was originally never inhabited by witches (according to the main character), but became famous for it and attracted many occult groups because of that. There is a cult in the novel that are extremists who think themselves to be 'saved' by god who are scared of the witches. So it definitely brings up those ideologies and questions about what religion is and which religion is better...etc

Some other controversial themes that came up were those about rape, addiction, weakness, abuse, mental illness and psychic ability. The cross over between the themes of psychic ability and mental illness definitely put this novel in the magical realism category. I think also that the descriptions and imagery created regarding the lace also added to that. I liked to see a book that dealt with so many complex issues. I also appreciated that some of the issues weren't dealt with because they were still brought up.

Overall I think this novel is worth 3.5 stars. It had a great ending and was a gritty story about what it means to be different. The reason I didn't give it a higher rating than that is because the book wasn't very captivating at the beginning and I did get bored a few times. I definitely think it was worth it though.

-The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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