I have just finished a book called The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, set in Salem in modern-day America. The story opens with Sophya being called back to Massachusetts from California because her beloved Aunt Eva, a psychic and lace reader, has gone missing.
Reluctantly, Sophya returns to her childhood home, to the house she shared with Eva after the abandonment of both Sophya and her twin sister Lindley by their mother May.
When Lindley dies in tragic circumstances, Sophya is catapulted into a mental prison from which she is unable to escape, until she finally ends up in Los Angeles, where she vows never to return to Salem and the terrible memories it holds.
But Eva’s disappearance changes all that.
Sophya is forced to confront her demons, surrounded by the modern-day witches of Salem and the fanatical, intolerant Calvinists, who are led by her nemesis, Cal Boynton.
Brunonia Barry manages to capture the essence of Salem, from its ancient history to its present-day tourism, with all the weird and wonderful people who populate the town. She paints a vivid picture of the harbour and the islands, the fog that closes in so unpredictably, the tides, and the golden cave-dwelling dogs who inhabit May’s island.
This is a story of place and of people, of strong women and weird happenings, all intricately woven together like strands of fine lace. Barry has a distinctive style, allowing us into the minds and hearts of her characters while still keeping us at a distance, unsure of what to feel, what to think, but bound up by the tale as it unfolds from one stupendous scene to the next.
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