Thursday, January 29, 2009

I have always enjoyed lace. The Gunne Sax dresses that were popular when I was in jr. high always had more lace trim than was probably tasteful around the cuffs and necklines and bodices and that made me love them all the more. My dream wedding gowns, whose pictures I cut out of bridal magazines and pasted into "When I Get Married" scrapbooks inevitably had full skirts made entirely of lace. I loved ballet costumes and christening gowns, purely on lace value alone. The only major problem I have with lace is that I am a complete klutz and no matter how careful I am, I will step on a hem or put my finger through some trim and put a hole right through the most fragile part of the fabric. Drats. Then what usually happens is that the lace slowly starts to fray. First, the threads are slow in loosening and coming out of their carefully constructed patterns, but they pick up speed and soon I am left with a partial design surrounded by jagged edges and loose threads. What started out as something beautiful or interesting becomes a big old mess.

That is sort of how I felt about the book The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. It's the story of Towner Whitney and her family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace. This story is filled with twists and turns as complicated as the lace that serves as its motif. It has family secrets, romance, violence, witchcraft, religious zealots, mental illness and a garden. The whole time reading it I kept thinking "Oh, I'm sure this event will lead to something. I should remember it." By the end of the novel, I had all these threads I was hanging onto, trying to weave them all into a picture or pattern. The problem I found was that many of the threads had no place in the finished product and left me with a tangley mess. It was a nice effort and I could see where Barry wanted to go with it, but I think that maybe, like the Gunne Sax dresses of my youth, she put on a little too much trim.

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