A bewitching story: ‘The Lace Reader’ | TheUnion.com

A bewitching story: ‘The Lace Reader’

“The Lace Reader” by Brunonia Barry. What if you could read your future in a piece of lace? The women of the Whitney family can do just that. Years earlier, on departing from her former home of Salem, Sophya “Towner” Whitney vowed never to read lace again.

However, her restraint and resolve are tested as she is called home following her beloved great-aunt Eva’s mysterious disappearance.

As Towner tries to discern details about Aunt Eva, she must also come to terms with her own earlier near-loss of sanity as well as attempt to establish new relationships and rebuild others.

Multiple narratives often told in flashback by various long-standing town residents, while offering somewhat skewed points of view, help to advance this part-historical, part-mystery/suspense novel, building rhythmically to its shattering conclusion.

Barry combines her focus on the history of this particular community, including its witchcraft trials, religious cults, and everyday seaport life, with her study of a fractured family seeking truth to bring us a most unusual and bewitching novel.

“The 19th Wife” by David Edershoff. Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, “The 19th Wife “combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds-a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah.

Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery. This dark but redemptive novel, an international bestseller, focuses on Renée Michel, 54 and widowed, who is the stolid concierge in an elegant Paris “hôtel particulier.”

Though short, common, and plump, Renée has, as she says, always been poor, but she has a secret: she’s a ferocious self-taught student of life who’s better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building’s snobby residents. Meanwhile, super smart 12-year-old Paloma Josse, who switches off narration with Renée, lives in the building with her wealthy, liberal family. Having grasped life’s futility early on, Paloma plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. The arrival of a new tenant, Kakuro Ozu, who befriends both the young pessimist and the concierge alike, sets up their possible transformations. By turns very funny and heartbreaking, Barbery never allows either of her dour narrators to get too cerebral or too sentimental. Her simple plot and sudden resolution of events add up to a great deal more than the sum of their parts. (Trade paper original)

“The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty” by David Harris. When Bill Walsh took over coaching duties for the San Francisco 49ers in the late 1970s, the team was arguably the worst in the NFL and he was stuck trying to shake a rep that he lacked what it took to lead a pro team. Within two years, the 49’ers had won the Super Bowl and were well on their way to becoming the team of the 80’s. Harris’ biography is grounded by extensive interviews with Walsh, but the players and others who were there bring nuance to the portrait, revealing that the Genius who was admired for his confident demeanor on game day could also be a brittle, insecure personality off the field. While game highlights do appear, equal attention is paid to Walsh’s team-building skills, with lengthy analyses of his selections from the college draft pool including Joe Montana, an underappreciated college quarterback who became one of the games all-time greats. Harris clearly knows his football, but the personal drama of Walsh’s career is told with such verve that even non-fans will be riveted.

“A Beautiful Mine: Women Prospectors of the Old West” by Chris Enss. During the gold rush, women worked alongside men panning and digging for gold and silver in the mountains of Colorado, California, and all the way up to Alaska. Often portrayed only as “camp followers” or “sporting women” in association with the gold rushes of the Old West, women actually made fortunes panning and mining, as well. These short vignettes look at the lives of the women who participated in the booms and busts as miners and mine owners. While many books have been written about the frontier women who ran brothels and boarding houses in mining towns, none have told the true stories of ladies who labored as hard as men out in the mines. A wonderful collection of true Americana, this book includes archival photographs of lady miners as well as the mines and boomtowns. (Trade paper original)


Compiled by manager Susan Beck at The Book Seller, 107 Mill Street, Grass Valley, 272-2131. Hours are Mon. through Fri. 9:30 a.m. Ð 7 p.m., Sat. 9:30 a.m. Ð 5:30 p.m., and 11 a.m. Ð 4 p.m. Sunday.

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