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The Lace Reader

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  24,689 Ratings  ·  4,108 Reviews
In the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale, Brunonia Barry’s bewitching gothic novel, The Lace Reader, is a phenomenon. Called “[a] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic” by Time Magazine, it is a haunting and remarkable tale told by an unforgettable, if strangely unreliable narrator—a woman from an enigmatic Salem family who can foretell the future in patterns ...more
Audio CD, 12 pages
Published July 29th 2008 by HarperAudio (first published 2006)
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Mary Conti
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Marcie You will have no problem identifying who is telling the story. Part of it is told in the first person of Towner, the main character. I found the book…moreYou will have no problem identifying who is telling the story. Part of it is told in the first person of Towner, the main character. I found the book held my interest and enjoyed the many quirky characters and the story line.I think you will like it!(less)
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Community Reviews

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Aug 28, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you liked THE LIFE OF PI, you might like this book. I didn't, and I wasn't real fond of this one by the time I got to the end of it. If that's a spoiler, so be it. This book actually made me mad.
Okay, so this book is about a family of women with "the sight," who can read a person's future through lace. Except there's very little actual lace reading that goes on in the book. There's a fair bit of lace making, but no reading. The heroine has been estranged from her relatives, living on the oppo
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
The concept gets an A, the execution gets a C. The book is just a mess! In serious need of editing and rearrangement. I was often confused because it was hard to tell reality from dreams from hallucinations from delusions from memories. There were a lot of good ideas, but so many of them were totally unnecessary and others weren't fully fleshed-out. The author should have saved some of those ideas for other stories and developed them further (and maybe she will). As the book went on, the author ...more
Aug 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book is like falling asleep in a moderately interesting class. A moment flutters by that briefly captures your imagination, but mainly things are just droning along. Droning, that is, until the last moment when the teacher starts ranting and throwing things. Wow! I'm awake, I'm awake--what's happening? This book has one of those crazy twist endings that just doesn't make sense, and you suspect that you missed something since you were, after all, practically asleep. But you didn't. I ...more
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Stacey by: ARC
Shelves: fiction
Ever found yourself finishing a book out of obligation, to the book itself? That vague but relentless guilt that settles in when you have figured out exactly where this story is going and where it will wind up, but you started the book, so you really ought to finish it? Go to your favorite bookseller and pick up Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader today. Now.
First, to give props where props are due, I apologize, Ms Barry. I thought I had it all figured out. I loved Towner, finding a woman I would l
Beth F.
This book didn’t quite live up to my expectations for it but overall, I thought it was okay. That makes me a little sad because there were several elements to this book that seemed like they would be wildly interesting when they were all mixed together in the same book and I was hoping to really love it. A quick rundown of the things that happened include the mysterious death of Eva Whitney, suicide, the disappearance of a young woman, mental illness, sexual abuse, rape, witchcraft, fortune-tell ...more
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: february, favorites, 2008
Towner Whitney is forced to return to Salem MA, after an absence of almost 15 years, when her Great-Aunt Eva goes missing. Once she is back in Salem Towner soon finds out that she will need to confront the ghosts of her past in order to move on into her future. Through a series of flashbacks and memories the reader finds out that the Whitney family is not quite what they seem. The story is filled with a cast of eccentric characters from Towner's mother May who refuses to step a foot off the isla ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book at first because of the visual setting of Salem and Marblehead, the unusual dysfunctional family, and the mystery of the aunt's death. As the story progresses it just gets tangled in its own web or lace as it were, a story in search of a flashy ending which is provided but somehow unsatisfying.
Carmaletta Hilton
My biggest issue with this book was the switching of points of view. I don't feel that it added all that much to the story, except to leave us all the more confused by the end. This story would have best been told completely in 3rd person, saving us the momentary pull out of the story when we get to a new chapter and realize that this isn't Towner's point of view. In the end, it feels as though the only reason for the chapters in Towner's pov were solely to give us the effect of confusion at the ...more
There were things I definitely liked about this book, the psychology for one and the visual of Salem, MA for another, but the organization of the book bothered me.
-Over a hundred pages into it, Barry shifts POVs and even then jumps around a bit between perspectives.
-Twice, she uses documents to tell her story, which is a great literary technique, but again they come late in the book and the second one takes up sixty pages. It was a little jarring (ironically, those sixty pages were my favorite
May 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews of The Lace Reader and against my better judgment, tried it out anyway. Mystery, cool psychic powers which involve reading fortune through a piece of lace, New England setting (Salem, MA even)… despite all of this, this novel was a chore.

The audio version barely kept me entertained on my way to work. Halfway through I was tempted to chuck it, but then remembered how terribly behind I am in the Goodreads yearly challenge =( So, I did something I never, ever do an
When I first saw this book cover, I had a mental Will Smith moment: “Awwww, hell no!” I thought it was the same as those novels centered around knitting or quilting but that lace was the new vehicle. Boy, was I wrong! It’s about so much more than lace reading (a kind of fortune telling based on the reading of lace), but I’m not here to plot summarize. I’ll say what I always say when I think a story is full of excellent twists. Be careful which reviews you read! I loved, loved, loved this story. ...more
Shelly Wright
This spellbinding story is primarily told by Towner Whitney,Brunonia Barry's self-confessed unreliable narrator: “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.” However, the first-person point of view shifts to a third-person adding to the mysterious narrative.

Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the novel interlaces historic references with modern allusions that waver between somber and glib, creating an evocative, unpredicta
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. I liked the combination of mystery, suspense, romance, family, psychology. It really grabbed my attention at the beginning and kept it all the way through. There were surprises I didn't see coming and now I want to go back and read it again with that perspective! It is provacative and challenging in many respects, so be prepared for that. It isn't an easy, entertaining read--but one that makes you think, hypothesize, and wonder. I enjoyed it a lot.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing plot idea and I loved the atmosphere of Salem , it made me feel like visiting it .
Oct 20, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The story begins with the central character, Towner Whitney, admitting she's a liar with memory loss issues - so you really don't know what to believe (and after a while you don't much care). Eventually (after plodding through 150 pages of mostly nothing) a mystery plot is introduced. This book is interminable! It's structured in an awkward manner - keeps jumping back and forth leading the reader down blind alleys with lots of scenes going nowhere and serving no purpose to the storyline. There w ...more
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't as good as I thought it would be, given all the press it's been getting. I mean, come on already! I hear about it all the time. I do think it's pretty amazing how this self-published author has now signed with HarperCollins or some other big publisher...but about the book. It was a pretty good story with lots of plot twists and an interesting theme exploring truth and reality, but the "surprise ending" is dumped on you like a ton of bricks, and besides, I had already figured it ...more
I will say this is an interesting concept with a plot twist that left me bewildered at the end. It gets a three star rating for the ending. To clarify- it is not because I disliked the ending. The lower rating is simply due to the fact that such a climactic turn of events should seemingly be explored a bit deeper. The acceptance of it all without too much fanfare was just too unbelievable to allow. I see there is a sequel and I will probably read it because I did like the characters. I loved th ...more
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My boss forced me to read this, and I'm really glad she did. A fabulously unreliable narrator leads to a lovely twist at the end. And Barry's descriptions of Salem, Mass., are so spot-on that anyone who has ever toured there even once will recognize certain landmarks.
I read this when it was first published in 2008 but decided to read it again when one of my book clubs picked it for our October 2014 selection. The story takes place in Salem, MA, and centers around an old family of women who are 'lace readers'--able to see the future in pieces of Ipswich lace. The main character, Towner Whitney, is summoned back to Salem from her life in California when the body of her Great Aunt Eva is found in the ocean. Returning home sets in motion again all the dysfunctio ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the end of a perfect summer day when the setting sun casts that net of skin-kissing balmy warmth over the land, if you're lucky enough to be driving down a traffic-less country backroad with all the windows open -- or just looking out the window of a city bus at that light hitting the sides of buildings at new and interesting angles, illuminating parts of them you rarely get to see -- you know how sometimes it actually feels like you're on drugs? This book lulls you into exactly that pleasant ...more
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Salem, Massachusetts is an unusual town. And the Whitneys are the most unusual family in Salem. Their family roots in Salem go back hundreds of years. They fit right in with the eccentric witches, most of the Whitney women have the ability to sense bits of people's thoughts and see glimpses of the future when they look through a piece of lace.

Towner Whitney is in her early thirties and she has just returned to Salem from her self imposed exile in California because her beloved Great Aunt Eva ha
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women who are open to mysticism
I wanted to read The Lace Reader because it is set in Salem, Massachusetts, and it's about a family of women with the gift of reading fortunes in lace. Each chapter starts with a little excepts from "The Lace Reader's Guide" about how to make or read lace as we follow Towner Whitney's return to Salem after a decade's absense following the suicide of her twin sister.

Towner returns when her great-aunt Eva, a gifted lace reader, goes missing. Towner has the gift, too, as well as hallucinations and
Towner Whitney doesn't remember why she left Salem all those years ago, when her name was still Sophya. Accordingto her, she's crazy. Indeed, in Salem, the Whitneys are known as "quirky". Especially Towner's great-aunt Eva, who runs a tearoom and is a renowned lace reader. Lace reading is a form of fortune-telling - a gift that most Whitney women have, to an excent. But Towner is back now. Her great-aunt Eva is missing.

Forced to confront the memories she's suppressed all those years ago and face
There were a couple of things that drew me to this book -- the idea of lace reading as a way of prophecy or fortune telling of sorts, the setting of Salem and the islands nearby, a hint at mystery and supernatural things. But I should have been warned off by two things. First the friend who gave this to me gave it a lukewarm recommendation, and second, the author comes flat out and tells us in the beginning that the narrator should not be trusted. I guess if there had been more of the lace-readi ...more
Paul Pessolano
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is being highly acclaimed by just about everyone who has read it. I will be no exception.

This is an excellent read and more importantly it is well written. The theme and story of the book will be of more interest to women than to men, although I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

The setting is Salem, Massachusetts; you remember where they had the Witch Trials in the 1600's. Salem is still smothered in the mystic of the occult. Some inhabitants are because they believe
I'm not sure how to review this book. It was a ride - sometimes confusing and bumpy. At other times it was mezmerising. I loved the characters. Each had unique but complex personalities.

The book begins with Towner Whitney stating that she is crazy and that she lies. She returns to Salem when she learns that her great aunt is missing. In no time, she is immersed in the confusing family dynamics that surrounded her as a child.

To me, the story is about perceptions, from the lace readings the Whit
Aug 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans, New England fans, wiccan fans
Recommended to Jen by: alex
Shelves: fiction
This book did a whammy on me. I finished it about a month ago, but I still find myself thinking about it in random moments. Supposedly, the author dreamt the ending, and I totally believe it.

A young woman returns to Salem, Mass after the death of her beloved Great Aunt. The Aunt's death is a mystery, and Towner Whitney works with the police and her family in order to find out what happened. What the police don't know (or refuse to acknowledge) is that the Whitney women can read a person's histor
Tattered Cover Book Store
Jackie says:

The imagination of Brunonia Barry seems limitless--from it she creates a whole history and methodology of divination (lace reading is her brainchild), then weaves it through a complex family tale full of surprises. This book is extremely difficult to put down once you dive into it--the cast of characters could keep a book club busy through many pots of coffee. Especially the late in the game major plot twist and what it means for all of the characters. It's set in modern Salem, with
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Lyndley *SPOILER ALERT* 21 474 Sep 17, 2017 04:47PM  
Around the Year i...: The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry 4 25 Jun 12, 2017 11:19AM  
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How's the language in this book? 10 163 Mar 25, 2012 08:51PM  
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Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of THE LACE READER, THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES, and THE FIFTH PETAL, which will be released in January 2017. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Str ...more
More about Brunonia Barry...

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“There is lace in every living thing: the bare branches of winter, the patterns of clouds, the surface of water as it ripples in the breeze.... Even a wild dog's matted fur shows a lacy pattern if you look at it closely enough.” 23 likes
I'll pit my God against your god any day, I say to the Calvinists. It's not their god I'm praying to.... The God I'm praying to is neither male nor female. My God is the one who exists apart from all of men's agendas, the God who takes you away when there is no possible place you can go.” 21 likes
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