Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia Barry made her literary debut with the critically acclaimed New York Times and international best-selling novel The Lace Reader (William Morrow). The book landed on international best-seller lists and received rave reviews from publications such as Time magazine, People, Elle, and The New York Times. Published in 26 different languages, The Lace Reader was named a People magazine People Pick, Barnes & Noble New Reads, Borders Book Club Selection, Amazon.com Best of the Month, 2008 Indie Next Highlights List, iTunes and Library Journal Best of 2008 (audio book), Book Bloggers Best Books of 2008, and won the New England Book Festival Fiction Prize and the 2009 Baccante literary prize, awarded at the International Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy.
A seasoned speaker, Barry has given keynote talks all over the country at such diverse venues as the Kappa Hospital Fundraiser in Denver, The Women's Network of Northern Essex, Community College Words Alive Conference in San Diego, the Red Hat Society HQ, Wordstock Festival in Portland, OR, New England Crime Bake, Grub Street Writers Conference, Women's Lunch Place Fundraiser in Boston, American Library Association, the Texas Library Association, and the Mobile Public Library. She's an ideal keynote speaker for historical societies, lace making and textile associations, the Red Hats Society, women's associations, libraries, and universities.
The Lace Reader is told by the beguiling yet unreliable narrator Towner Whitney. All the Whitney women can read the future in a piece of lace. But Towner Whitney has vowed never to use her gift - and never to return to Salem - after a terrible tragedy involving her twin sister, Lyndley. With the infamous town of Salem, Massachusetts as a backdrop, Barry created a modern community of fascinating characters whose ties to each other and to the past are also inextricably bound to what a time and place have come to represent culturally as part of our national identity. The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale which spirals into a world of secrets as mysterious to read as the lace itself. It is also an important story about the love of family, the bond between women, the mystery of twins, the power to survive, and the ever-present danger of the past repeating itself.
Barry studied literature and creative writing at Green Mountain College in Vermont and at the University of New Hampshire, and was one of the founding members of the Portland Stage Company. While still an undergraduate at UNH, Barry spent a year living in Dublin and auditing Trinity College classes on James Joyce's Ulysses. Barry's love of theater led to her first job in Chicago where she ran promotional campaigns for Second City, Ivanhoe, and Studebaker theaters. Barry moved to California and worked on a variety of projects for several movie studios.
After a decade in Hollywood, Barry returned to Massachusetts in the mid-1990s. Several years ago, she wrote for the Beacon Street Girls, a series of novels for 'tweens. She also created brain teaser puzzles for Smart Games. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her husband and their beloved golden retriever, Byzantium.
Critical Acclaim for The Lace Reader:
"[A] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense, and magic."
-- Time Magazine
"A spine-tingler set in Salem. . . [with] an irresistible pull. . . The Lace Reader is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club."
-- People ("People Pick")
"Gripping. . . a marvelously bizarre cast of characters (living and dead) in a uniquely colorful town, and there are enough riveting sections here to illustrate what [Barry] can do when she lets loose, grabs her broom and flies."
-- Washington Post Book World
"Drawing comparisons to memorable gothic novels, including Rebecca and The Thirteenth Tale. Barry's modern-day story of Towner Whitney, who has the psychic gift to read the future in lace patterns, is equally complex but darker in subject matter. . . Repressed memories emerge. Violent confrontations, reminiscent of the hysteria of the witch trials, explode in this complex novel. . . The novel's gripping and shocking conclusion is a testament to Barry's creativity."
-- USA Today
"[Barry] captures [Salem] evocatively and often wittily. . . What is real in The Lace Reader? What is not? To her credit Ms. Barry makes this story blithe and creepy in equal measure. . . she keeps it unpredictable. And there is much suspense invested in where all the lacunas in Towner's impressions will lead her... There are clues planted everywhere. . ."
-- The New York Times
"Barry weaves a suspenseful tale of witchcraft and dark mystery... Barry's depictions of time and place are marvelously descriptive."
-- Roxanne Price, Elle Magazine
"Past and present mysteries merge in a fast-moving narrative that builds through a numerous small dramas to a theatrical conclusion."
-- Katherine Turman, Elle Magazine
"Suspenseful and literary catnip-for-book-clubs. . . while it's surprisingly gritty for having 'lace' in the title, we're calling this now as the beach read of '08."
-- New York Magazine
"Brunonia Barry can write. Boy can she write. . . She knows how to set a reader up and she knows how to keep you reading. She knows how to make a character shine and how to portray a town in all its splendor and strangeness. She knows how to pace the plot. This is not only an accomplished first novel, it is an accomplished novel."
-- Globe and Mail (Canada)
"Brunonia Barry tells a suspenseful, fast-paced story. Her many sympathetic characters are nicely drawn and inhabit a world thick with local charm and historical detail. Barry mixes together witchcraft, madness, abused women, Red Hats, survivor guilt, memory loss, precognition, and dissociation into a heady brew that will go down easily for many readers. "
-- Boston Globe
"Surprise endings are tough to pull off - too often they aren't a surprise to anyone but the main character. To Barry's credit, she genuinely got me."
-- Christian Science Monitor
"The Lace Reader is a page-turner, and the ending is almost as shocking as the film The Sixth Sense."
-- Salem Gazette
"[Barry] may have schooled herself on Alice Hoffman and Jodi Picoult, because The Lace Reader contains trace elements of both. . . while The Lace Reader is rooted in the everyday of small-town life, it has a hallucinatory quality throughout as Towner's vision clouds with fear. In the end, reality shifts again as Barry delivers her final strike. It's hefty enough to throw everything into question and a great way to leave off a really good book."
-- New York Daily News
"The Lace Reader takes place in a world I do not know, but find strangely familiar, with characters that are unique and new, but I swear I've met before. I want to be on the island with these women, I want to learn to make lace, and to read it."
-- Susan Marchand, PBS, New York
"With The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry plunges us through the looking glass and beyond to a creepy and fascinating world. Prepare to meet strange, brave, bruised, electrically alive women there. Prepare to be riveted by their story and to live under its spell long after you've reached its astonishing end."
-- Marisa de los Santos, author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me
"Lovely and captivating. . . The Lace Reader showcases Barry's understanding of human nature. A splendid debut novel."
-- Kristin Hannah, author of Firefly Lane
"Evocative, layered, smart, and astonishing, The Lace Reader is a fever dream of a novel that will haunt me for a long time to come. As Barry's characters unfolded their secrets in surprising, perfectly connected ways, I found myself slowing down to savor the language even as the story had me panting with impatience to turn the next page. The Salem, Massachusetts that the Whitney women inhabit is a wild, dark place, and I loved every moment that I spent there."
-- Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
"Brunonia Barry has pulled off a major feat with her debut, The Lace Reader: It's a gorgeously written literary novel that's also a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping."
-- Dallas Morning News
"Barry does a fantastic job of sketching out her characters. The Whitney women, one and all, are intriguingly real."
-- San Antonio Express-News
"Every now and then, a novel comes along that invites you into an imagined world and holds you there, captive, until it comes to an end. The Lace Reader is just such an invitation. . . This richly atmospheric story is a tale of mothers and daughters and sisters; of how we seek - and find - answers in unexpected places; of the dangers of fundamentalism. As the lace reader searches for the meaning within the delicate pattern, so these characters struggle to make sense of their lives. All this unfolds in contemporary Salem, where, as a cop named Rafferty tells his boss, 'Witchcraft isn't even a crime. In this town it's a profit center.' The Lace Reader, like the Witchcraft Museum in Salem, invites visitors to 'sit a spell.' You'll be glad you did."
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune
"What makes Brunonia Barry's compulsively readable debut even more interesting is the spice added by fillips both psychic and supernatural."
-- Denver Post
"The Lace Reader casts an enthralling spell. . . As The Lace Reader unspools, we are drawn into a whirling vortex of deceit. Barry untangles these confusing strands of mystery with an artful precision that justifies the hype her book has garnered. And her depictions of her characters' altered states are beautifully rendered."
-- Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Finely rendered moments make this a novel to savor - a story as textured as it is imaginative . . . a story that readers will find as lovely as a swatch of handmade lace."
-- Rocky Mountain News