Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Lace Reader

After finishing Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader, I have to question what all the buzz is about. Although the book’s premise is intriguing, the execution leaves much to be desired.

Towner Whitney returns to her home near Salem, Massachusetts for the first time in 15 years. She fled after her twin sister’s suicide, and her own emotional breakdown, and only returns when her step-grandmother goes missing.

Much of modern-day Salem is populated with witches, and no one in town—or out—seems surprised or alarmed by this fact. Towner comes from a long line of witches. The women in her family have a history of mind reading, tea reading, and lace reading. Towner, however, has chosen to abandon these practices.

The book follows two stories: Towner’s return and the events that led to her leaving in the first place. Like I said, the premise is intriguing. The actual story—not so much. Barry fills the book with tedious, unnecessary descriptions and details, so I found it difficult to actually get into the story while slogging through these passages.

For a book that reads (and is written) more like popular than literary fiction, I was surprised by how intentionally muddled the story is. Specifically, Barry never makes clear what is magic and what is a product of mental illness. I know the vagueness is deliberate, but for the kind of book it is, such writing makes for an unsatisfactory conclusion and reading experience.

If you are interested in the supernatural (and language, sex, and nudity), leave The Lace Reader on the shelf and tune into HBO’s new series True Blood instead.

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