Friday, July 25, 2008

Brunonia Barry/THE LACE READER


Towner Whitney never intended to return to Salem, Massechusetts. Now 33, Towner has been living in California for the last 15 years, since the mental breakdown she had after her twin sister's suicide. But now she has to go back--her beloved Great Aunt Eva has disappeared. As Towner is forced to confront the life she'd hoped she'd left behind, she finds herself fighting for and against a town steeped in personal histories and filled with unusual characters: her mother, May, a misanthropic rescuer of battered women who lives with a tribe of feral golden retrievers on an inaccessible island; a walking wounded recovering alcoholic police officer; an angry ex boyfriend; a serial pedophile and violent abuser who also happens to be the most influential evangelical religious leader in town and Towner's uncle. Most relevantly, Towner must fight for and against the ghosts of her past, and reconcile herself with this town full of ambient magic and every conceivable kind of witch.

THE LACE READER is an absorbing read--you'll have trouble putting it down without finishing it. The over-all effect, unfortunately, is a little half-baked. A rotating narrator moves from present-tense first person to past-tense third person and past-tense first person, and the lack of narrative commitment makes the stream of thought rocky at times. The author offers a lot of interesting plot threads, some of which come to fruition and some of which get abandoned or forgotten along the way. If the ending didn't feel so rushed and the conclusions had been a little more developed, this would have been a great book. As it is, it's an entertaining read.

2 comments:

Lisa said...

"A rotating narrator moves from present-tense first person to past-tense third person and past-tense first person, and the lack of narrative commitment makes the stream of thought rocky at times."

Is this a trend lately, or do I just seem to be noticing it more? I've read a couple of books recently that do this and I can't figure out why the author chooses to do it. Lee Martin pulled it off in THE BRIGHT FOREVER, but in a couple of other books I've read, the author seemed to use all of the shifting in a more gimmicky, less effective way.

moonrat said...

Lisa, honestly my feeling on this is that it's laziness on the part of the author. It's true that often in one scene you might think of the perfect way to say something from someone besides the narrator's point of view, but sacrificing a cohesive narrative in order to get a gem or two in requires your reader to work harder and jars them out of the spell you might have been weaving. It really, really bothers me as I'm reading.

This book actually wasn't as bad as some I've read. But I can think of two books off the top of my head that were utterly spoiled for me by an inconsistent narrator: Jennifer Egan's LOOK AT ME and Yasmine Crowther's THE SAFFRON KITCHEN. Wither of those could have been a really good book.