Modern Lit: The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry

5.0 out of 5 stars Are you a good witch or a bad witch?


Brunonia Barry’s impressive debut novel is not set in Kansas, but in Salem, MA, forever infamous as the home of witches and other “crazies”. The site of the tragic trials in 1692 is like no other town in the US. Setting her story of a mentally unbalanced young woman in Salem was a brilliant choice, because its foggy, mystical elements are more easily accepted against that most eccentric of backgrounds.

Protagonist Towner (Sophya) Whitney starts telling us her biographical tale by warning us not to believe her. She is a self-described liar, but having reached the end of the narrative (in which another point of view is also provided), I do not regard her as untruthful so much as deeply, seriously deluded, a fearful patient in denial so impenetrable that it requires breaking down with a sledge hammer. Towner’s personal and psychological odyssey is a scary one, and the difficulty she experiences in coming to terms with it is fully understandable. This is an evocative page turner of a novel, and it is easy to fall under its spell. This book belongs on the shelf along side the likes of Rebecca, The Catcher in the Rye, and Housekeeping.


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