Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Salem, Massachusetts is the home of the Whitney family. Whitney women are known for their strength, their eccentricity and their ability to read the future in lace. There is Eva, the matriarch, who lives in Salem, reads lace and runs a tearoom. May, her stepdaughter, is an agrophobic who lives on an island in the harbour, where she has devoted her life to helping battered women, many of whom live there while putting their lives back together. Emma, Eva's daughter, also lives on the island, blinded and brain-damaged after a beating by her husband, Cal. May's daughters were twin girls, Towner and Lyndley. Lyndley committed suicide when she was seventeen and Towner left town, seeking a new life.

As the story opens, Eva has gone missing and Towner returns home, drawn by this family crisis. Towner seems to be the catalyst that causes old relationships and secrets to reemerge. Cal Boynton is back in town where he has reinvented himself as a religious leader of a cultlike following. A young girl, Angela Rickey, who is pregnant with Cal's child, also disappears. Towner's old love, Jack, is still in town and anxious to resume their relationship. In addition, a town policeman, Rafferty, also falls in love with Towner. Towner starts to untangle the mysteries that have haunted her life. Why did her twin commit suicide in front of her and Jack? What is the fixation that Cal has with the Whitney women? Towner slowly reveals the truth, sometimes reading lace to find patterns. The book rises to a page-turning climax where the truth that has formed this family is finally revealed.

The Lace Reader is a compelling and satisfying read. It explores the issues of sexual and physical abuse. The mindset of those who enter cults is investigated. Suicide and mental illness are other themes, along with lost love and the yearning to hide in the past. While it covers depressing material, the book is not a depressing one overall. Rather, it leaves the reader with a message of hope and the realization that the truth must be faced in order to lose its power to skew lives. Not easily forgotten, this book is recommended for all fiction readers.

1 comment:

Diane said...

This one was a good read as well; great review. I love books set in Salem, MA.