The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry begins:
"Every gift has a price . . .
Every piece of lace has a secret . . .
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. . . . "
When I flipped through this book at the library, this beginning caught my attention. I finally had time to participate in a book club monthly discussion and I was excited to read this book.
Towner (as most everyone calls her) has an interesting story to tell. She comes from an eccentric family from Salem where the women can tell fortunes in pieces of lace handcrafted by generations of women. Towner flees Salem after the suicide of her twin sister and a stay in a mental hospital but is called back when the mysterious death of her aunt and the disappearance of another woman happen. We quickly learn of the mental instability of Towner but I personally forgot about it until the end when I was shocked to learn what was really going on.
The story weaves around 5 women of the Whitney family. Obviously there is Towner which you learn to sympathize with immediately. Towner’s mother May is a recluse that lives on an island and refuses to leave. May tends to abused women and children who come to her to escape the abuse. She teaches the women to spin thread and make lace. Aunt Emma lives on the island but is even more mysterious then May. Emma came to the island after escaping from her abusive husband Cal. Cal goes to jail for a number of years but returns to Salem and forms a cult of Calvinists. They terrorize Salem with their wild Christian views of Witchcraft and promise people a better life if they are saved. We learn about Aunt Eva and her gift of healing for the town. We eventually get into the life of Towner’s twin, Lyndley, before she killed herself. I actually let out a gasp when the back story of what led up to the reason for the suicide!
While The Lace Reader is a good example of great literature, there were times the story seemed to carry on and I found myself asking what the point of this story was. The jumping around of point of views tends to be distracting and tiresome near the middle of the story but the ending was well worth the wait!