Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

This is a book that I've picked up numerous times over the past ten years, but I never could read it  for one reason or another.  I was finally compelled to read it because the sequel The Fifth Petal, is coming out in January, and I wanted to read the sequel.  Reading reviews online had me all set for a novel that I was sure to enjoy.  I was wrong. 

I'm really bummed I didn't much like The Lace Reader.  I so wanted to enjoy it, and rave about it.  But I can't.  It took me weeks to finish it, which is usually not a good sign for me.  I wasn't pushed to really sit down and dive into the story of Towner and her mother May and Aunt Eva no matter how hard I tried.  And this book takes place in Salem for pete's sake!  A book set in Salem, MA is always a winner for me.  But not this one.  

So why didn't I like The Lace Reader?  I felt like I was doggie paddling in a circle most of the time.  I couldn't tell what the story was trying to focus on:  was it a potential mystery with the puzzling drowning of Eva, or was it a family drama?  Was it a weird contemporary/historical novel?  Who is this creepy Cal guy, who is basically a cult leader who terrorizes Towner and her family?  Oh, that's right.  He's Towner's relative.  Towner herself is a mixed bag of confusion.  Returning to Salem to investigate the disapperance of her Aunt Eva is actually an opportunity for Towner to come back and confront her past.  Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  But it's not, and I found myself paging back through to try and understand just what the heck was going on--and nothing was clear until at least 3/4 of the way through the novel.  And no surprise here, but that's where you find out just how unreliable a narrator Towner actually is--she's one confused woman.  

You may put the pieces of the puzzle together much quicker than I did; I found myself bored with it all, and that's not what I was expecting from a novel that took me 10 years to finally get to, only to be disappointed.  I will, however, read the sequel The Fifth Petal just to see where Towner's life has changed.  I hope to understand her better.  There are themes of abuse, both physical and sexual in this novel, and lots of drinking and smoking pot, so keep that in mind if you're trying to decide to read it.  Don't let me review stop you.  I am certainly in the minority of people who weren't thrilled with this novel.  There is a lot of subplot/plot whirling through this novel, so you need to pay attention.  I'm deliberately leaving much of the plot out of this review to not give anything away.  Plus, it's just exhausting to think of everything moving through the pages. 

Rating:  5/10 for a confusing plot and a main character that didn't capture my emotions or attention for very long.  The sequel to The Lace Reader, The Fifth Petal, will be out in stores in late January, 2017.  

Available in paperback, e-book, and audio. 


  1. Well Sue, you are not alone in being less than charmed by The Lace Reader. If you check Goodreads you will find plenty of naysayers. For me, the value of the novel was that it brought me more compassion for abused women. My review: http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2011/05/lace-reader.html

    1. Hi Judy: I read your review, and it was certainly more thorough than mine! I'm hoping the sequel meets my expectations. I'm curious enough about Towner that I want to see what she's up to after all the revelations in The Lace Reader.

  2. Hmm. Now I don't think I will read it. Books I have to push myself through years, annoy me. I still can't get through The Wolves of Calha by King even though I think that series is some of his best writing. I think your blog describes it enough for me. Thank you 😊