The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry is an engrossing story that sucks you right in to it and by the end of the story the reader finds out just how "unreliable" the narrator really is.
The novel takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, the town of seventeenth century witch-hunt infamy. The town itself really acts as another character in the story because it is the nature of the town's history that influences the events and characters of the story. Ultimately this is the tale of the deadly destruction of a family by one man, who is an extremely dangerous and cunning alcoholic, abuser and psychopath. It is also the story of one young woman's journey toward mental and emotional healing.
When her beloved great-aunt goes missing, Towner Whitney returns home after a self-imposed fifteen year exile. Towner comes from a family of lace readers--women who can read others' fortunes in the patterns of lace--and is herself a very gifted lace reader. Towner refuses to use her gifts of clairvoyance, 'reading' people, and reading lace; in fact, she fights hard to deny their existence and keep them under control. In reality Towner is still struggling to survive her twin sister's suicide a decade and a half before as well as the broken mess her family became. Towner is just barely holding on and is not even sure she wants to hold on. As the story progresses, it becomes about why Towner left, why she resists returning home, and the family secrets the town holds.
Throughout the novel, the narration arbitrarily shifts between the "unreliable" first person narrator of Towner and a nearly omniscient third person narrator. The novel unspools, revealing the secrets of the past and the Whitney family, and it is a twisted and broken history. The story is complex and complicated in places and the ending will make you go back and rethink everything you understood or thought you understood about the events recounted earlier in the novel.
I highly recommend you read this very satisfying novel. It is available upon request from Annville Free Library, Lebanon Community Library, Myerstown Community Library, and Palmyra Public Library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie