Review: The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader made me get on the wrong train and only notice it after 20 minutes! It´s an interesting and often gripping tale about Towner Whitney who comes from along line of lace-reading Salem women. After years of living in California she is forced to return to Salem when her great-aunt Eva goes missing. Towner has fled her hometown years ago after the suicide of her twin sister Lyndley and her consequent stay in a psychiatric hospital. When Eva is found dead, Towner is forced to stay and is drawn into the mystery of Eva´s death, the presence of her abusive uncle Cal and his sect the Calvinists, and the disappearance of pregnant teen Angela Rickey.

The narrative, often told from Towner´s point of view, is interspersed with excerpts of Eva´s “The Lace Reader´s Guide”, which explains how those gifted can tell a person´s future from a piece of Ipswich lace. These parts give the reader enough knowledge to follow the story and accept lace reading as a real talent that exists in the world of this story. These excerpts are also connected to the plot and foreshadow the direction it might take or make the reader contemplate the truth of the narrative voice. For Towner, the first and most present narrator is of course an unreliable first-person narrator. Right at the beginning of the story, Towner tells us that she lies all the time and that she is crazy. We also find out that in the hospital, Towner received shock therapy teatment and as a result has lost some of her memories. So you see, Towner Whitney can join the long line of great unreliable narrators. I get such a kick out of unreliable narrators, so please excuse my weird enthusiasm! 🙂

Despite this, I could at first not really get into the book. This was probably due to other books I was reading at the same time,which were more important to me and overhadowed The Lace Reader. Another problem was me, I´m very down-to-earth and not at all into esoteric stuff, and this book with its lace reading was a bit much for me at first. I got more into it in part two (which was when I got on the train) and for the most part liked the book from then on. There are some nice and mostly surprising twists at the end. I also liked the background of Salem and its history, which is a perfect backdrop to this story.

What I did not enjoy so much, apart from the esoteric stuff, were the countless problems of Towner and her family and, sometimes it felt like, everyone else. Towner has just gone through surgery, she does not take care of herself, she has a horrible past (the death of her sister etc). Her aunt Emma has for years been beaten and generally abused by her husband Cal (who goes on to surround himself with followers who think him the new messiah and wants to bring back witch burning to Salem), the mother May has agoraphobia, and the list goes on. It seems ridiculous to heap on one family.

Still, it´s a good story and a quick read. Not perfect, but a good way to spend an evening.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

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. I am a crazy woman. . . . That last part is true.” (3)

On shock therapy: “I was almost eager for it. May´s response was to send me a copy of Sylvia Plath´s The Bell Jar.” (51)

`Try to act as if you´re wearing black,´ I once heard a Hollywood director say to one of his actors. That´s what these people are doing.” (57)

Have you reviewed this book? lLet me know and I´ll add a link!

12 thoughts on “Review: The Lace Reader

  1. As a fellow down-to-earth person, I worry that the lace reading might be too much for me also. Still, I do love a good twist, so maybe I’ll pick this up sometime.

    1. I think you could give it a try if you stumble upon a copy in the library. It was a problem for me as well but in part two I started to get used to it. I think that if you don´t start to enjoy reading it at that point, the book is just not for you. It´s not just the lace reading which is mentioned more than performed but the esoteric leaning of most characters. Hope that doesn´t completely scare you off. But (and I feel like a snob saying this) I don´t think you´ll really miss out on something that´ll touch you intellectually or emotionally.

    1. I hope you´ll like it but it´s a good idea to try to make it to the middle before giving up. It was worth it for me 🙂

  2. Get on the wrong train and not notice for that long! That in itself makes me think this would be a great read. I will have to check it out at some point 🙂

  3. I’m not sure if I’d like this book, because at times I am a bit too “down to earth” as well. I’m doubting whether to put this on my wishlist, so maybe I should try to borrow it from the library sometime?

    1. Yes I think you´d better get it from the library. I´m glad I did, it´s not one of those books I would want to reread. It´s interesting and fun for lazy day, but not much more. At least that´s what I think 🙂

  4. Interesting review! I love the cover of the book. I also love the fact that there is an unreliable narrator. It reminds me of a book called ‘An instance of the fingerpost’ by Iain Pears, where the story is told from the perspective of a few narrators and most of them turn out to be unreliable and so it was quite interesting and challenging to sift the truth from the imagination. I have fallen in love with unreliable narrators since then. I also liked the fact that while reading the book you hopped into the wrong train and didn’t realize it 🙂 I think some part of the book must have had a real magnetic power for you to do that.

    1. The ian pears book sounds interesting, happy to hear someone shares my fascination with unreliable narrators! 🙂 Haha, I think the train and the part where the book just got interesting coincided. I´m trying to be more attentive to my surroundings now, but perhaps getting on the wrong train is a good test as to the books power 😀

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