Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Lace Reader reveals a stunning Salem tale of inner and outer suspense

The first narrator that we meet in The Lace Reader lets us know right from the start that her point of view is suspect with these opening sentences:"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."

Towner Whitney grew up in Salem, MA,but left there many years ago after several family tragedies,thinking she would never return. Just days into her recovery from surgery,she receives news that her great aunt Eva has gone missing and is feared to be dead. Since May,Towner's agoraphobic mother,refuses to leave the small island she lives on(which is also a sanctuary for abused women),Towner goes home to see if she can find Eva herself.

It soon becomes clear that Eva is dead,presumably a victim of drowning. Many of the longtime Salem residents suspect foul play,with one major suspect in mind;Cal Boynton, a violent former alcoholic who was once married to Eva's daughter Emma and physically abused her over the years to the point where Emma's injuries left her with brain damage. Cal now calls himself a Reverend and leads a small but fervent religious cult group who hassles the local witchcraft tourist trade and practicing Wiccans,making the Whitney women the frequent targets of their wrath.

The Whitney women have a long tradition of mind reading and fortune telling,using lace as the focusing object of their psychic abilities. Eva ran a tea room out of her home and used locally made bobbin lace(some of which was made by the battered women residents staying with May)and while Towner has inherited these gifts,she refuses to read lace any more. The last time that she did, the images that she saw didn't seem to help her prevent the tragedy that was to come.

During Towner's stay,she meets Rafferty,a police detective who has moved to Salem to get over his past troubles and was a good friend of Eva's. He's investigating her death along with the disappearance of Angela Rickey,a young woman who was mixed up with Cal's flock of followers and has recently gone missing. Angela was also having a secret affair with Cal and a victim of his abuse who has left him before. However,this time she's pregnant,most likely by Cal, and it looks as if her vanishing act and Eva's death may be connected.

That's not the only set of mysteries to be solved here. Towner's memories of her past were severely affected by trauma and shock treatments given to her as part of the treatment for a nervous breakdown. Even with intimate family members aiding her in piercing most of those experiences back together,she still has some gaps and a few flashbacks about her twin sister Lyndley,another casualty of Cal Boynton's cruelty.

As Towner and Raffety come closer together to answer these questions,more crop up and lead to revelations that not even lace reading could predict,or rather be properly interpreted by it's seeker.

The author of this book,Brunonia Barry,is a resident of Salem and her love for the area shines through out the pages,bringing her version of the town to vivid life. Barry weaves several threads of plot points that slowly but surely come together to form a intricate journey of one woman longing to see the truth about her past and needing it to bring her towards the path to a better future.

The Lace Reader is one of those perfect books that saves you from the dullness of TV reruns and overrated blockbuster movies,one that's great for curling up with in your favorite chair and just devouring over the course of a weekend. It's also an excellent pick for reading groups,looking for a story that keeps you guessing and filled with lively characters to discuss over a cup of tea or two.

The book will be out and about by July 29,so make your plans to see Salem thru the eyes of Brunonia Barry and rejoice in the magic of her words:


Ladytink_534 said...

Wonderful review! I might have to read this now. Loved your pictures too.

docspond said...

To find out more about the real tunnels in Salem Brunonia Barry talks about read Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City. Then take the cool Salem walking tour about them. Learn how 144 people hid behind the creation of a park to build a series of tunnels in Salem utilizing the nation’s first National Guard to build them so a superior court justice, a Secretary of the Navy, and a bunch of Senators could avoid paying Jefferson’s custom duties. Engineered by the son of America’s first millionaire.