Reviews & Awards
Starred Review – Publishers Weekly
Starred Review – Library Journal
International Acclaim (to be published in 30 languages)
Winner – 2009 Baccante Award for Best Women’s Fiction (first American author to win this award)
Winner – iTunes Best of 2008 (audio book version)
Winner – Library Journal Best of 2008 (audio book version)
Winner –Book Bloggers Best Books of 2008
Winner – 2009 New England Book Festival – Best Fiction Book
Amazon.com Best of the Month, August 2008
Barnes & Noble New Reads, January 2008
Borders Book Club Selection August & October 2008
Borders New Voices 2008 nominee
2008 Indie Next Highlights List (National Independent Booksellers)
A People Magazine People Pick
What Readers and Reviewers are saying about The Map of True Places
When Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader raced to the top of the New York Times bestseller’s list in 2008, book clubs across the country got to see there’s more to Salem than witches. Two years later, Barry’s doing it again with her highly anticipated second novel, The Map of True Places.
This contemporary story doesn’t exactly pick up where The Lace Reader left off but continues to explore the themes of perception v. reality, definitions of family, and literal and metaphorical map reading that kept readers of her first book turning pages.
In the course of setting the record straight when it comes to life in contemporary Salem, Barry also takes on some pretty heavy issues in Map: mental illness, suicide, broken engagements, and same-sex marriage. While she doesn’t shy from incorporating these thorny subjects into the narrative, she does tend to avert our eyes when things get particularly nasty. Whether representative of sensitive storytelling or paternalism, book clubs throughout the country will nevertheless have a grand time hashing it out.
North Shore Art Throb Magazine 4/27/10
“Gripping and emotionally taut, this is a novel brimming with both the messy and the lovely parts of life. A provocative examination of family, aging, and finding your true place in the world, The Map of True Places is sure to smoothly sail up the bestseller list.”
“[Barry] succeed[s] in the tension she creates between the normal moments of everyday life and the uncanny intrusions of the past into it. Her characters move through their days performing their duties and taking care of their responsibilities, only to be waylaid by unconscious desires and memories. Barry’s grasp of those subterranean pulls gives The Map of True Places a gravity…”
— The Columbus Dispatch
“The meditations on American history, assisted suicide, reincarnation and celestial navigation are informative and even endearing…the voice behind the plot turns is both likable and engaging.”
— Carolyn See, The Washington Post
“Barry’s considerable latest delves into the long-lingering effects of a mother’s suicide. . . . This is a lovingly told story with many well-drawn characters, who sooner or later reconsider the courses charted by personal decisions and circumstance.”
— Publishers Weekly
“A novice psychotherapist finds unsettling parallels between a patient’s suicide and her mother’s history in Barry’s second (The Lace Reader, 2008). . . . This woman-in-jeopardy thriller retooled with gothic elements–shifting identities, secrets and portents, a deserted cottage and a missing suicide note- manages to transcend.”
— Kirkus Reviews STARRED REVIEW
“Zee’s a vulnerable, likable character, and the dramatic narrative brings her experience to life…readers will be perched on the edge of their seats while consuming this mesmerizing, suspenseful tale.”
— Library Journal
“Watching Zee… navigate the course of her own future is a journey …that readers will gladly make in the capable hands of tour guide Brunonia Barry.”
“Like her hit debut, The Lace Reader (2008), Barry’s second novel features an involving, intricately woven story and vivid descriptions of historic Salem.”
“Masterfully woven with a cast of unforgettable characters set loose in a world so specific and real, The Map of True Places is a gripping quest for truth that kept me reading at the edge of my seat to the very last page.”
— Lisa Genova, New York Times Bestselling author of Still Alice
“Brunonia Barry provides her fans with a profound complex relationship drama as the past impacts the present and the future. . . . Making the case that honesty is the best policy for the long run, Ms. Barry provides a thoughtful tale that will have readers reflecting on their lives.”
“The Map of True Places is a much more introspective novel. It’s quiet and thoughtful. The driving force behind it is the skillfully drawn characters . . . . The reader is taken in by these incredible personalities and really gets to know them over the course of the novel. It’s a lyrical, emotionally gripping book.
“Barry has written a beautiful transcendental tale worth high praise. The Map of True Places has a celestial place in the universe.”
This is the story of how Zee Finch must remap her life. Brunonia Barry intricately weaves a seafaring story of legend as the complicated course of Zee’s intended life leads her astray. The parallels are mysterious as the story rocks back and forth between the past and present. The drama unfolds in serial like fashion until the map of her future shows its destiny. Engaging storytelling, characters who breathe as if they were family: Barry has written a beautiful transcendental tale worthy of high praise. The Map of True Places has a celestial place in the universe.
Wisteria Leigh’s review on BlogCritics.org
Readers will be perched on the edge of their seats while consuming this mesmerizing, suspenseful tale.
Review by Stephenie Harrison on BookPage.com
Brunonia Barry burst onto the literary scene with her debut novel, The Lace Reader, a story filled with magic, romance and an ensnaring web of family secrets. Initially self-published, The Lace Reader garnered so many rave reviews and such a loyal following that it was eventually picked up by HarperCollins and became a bestseller.
Now Barry is back with another enthralling novel that is sure to please previous fans as well as gain her new devotees. The Map of True Places tells the story of Zee Finch, a young therapist who is struggling to navigate the tumultuous waters of adulthood. Toil and turmoil are nothing new to Zee, whose life has never been set on a straight course; as a young girl, she watched her manic-depressive mother die before her very eyes, an event which forced Zee to grow up quicker than most and is a burden she still carries with her—one that grows heavier by the day. When one of her patients commits suicide, Zee retreats to her childhood home in Salem, Massachusetts, only to find that her father is gravely ill. As Zee juggles the demands of caring for her father and also meeting her own needs, old memories and guilt resurface, prompting her to slowly untangle the snarls of her past so that she may find peace in her future.
Gripping and emotionally taut, this is a novel brimming with both the messy and the lovely parts of life. A provocative examination of family, aging and finding your true place in the world, The Map of True Places is sure to smoothly sail Barry up the bestseller list once more.
IndieNext Pick for May 2010
Brunonia Barry has claimed Salem, Massachusetts, as her own locale –even using Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables—and the town couldn’t ask for a better chronicler. Just as the city is a place of haunted mystery, so is the life of Zee Finch, who is forced to confront both past and present when caring for her ailing father. With characters that are rich, engaging, and sympathetic, Barry has created a world that perfectly expresses ordinary life.
Bill Cusumano, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI
** Library Thing Reviews **
I want to live in a Brunonia Barry novel. She is amazing at creating a sense of place in her novels, and while Salem is less of a character in its own right in The Map of True Places than it was in The Lace Reader, it is still an integral part of the story.
Zee, a successful therapist in Boston, returns to Salem to care for her ailing father and to take a little breather from work in the wake of the suicide of one of her patients. Once she arrives, she finds her father, once a leading Hawthorne scholar, living alone across from the House of Seven Gables, having kicked out Melville, his longtime partner. While trying to reconcile her father with Melville, once the love of his life, she drags up quite a bit about both men’s pasts and the past of her late mother. Getting over her mother’s suicide, which Zee witnessed, has been a lifelong journey for Zee, one that has not been helped by the similarities between her mother and the patient Zee so recently lost.
Barry’s gift for layering stories is clear as she melts the pasts of so many characters together into one cohesive narrative. Some of the connections between the characters run much deeper than they seem, and even though the same events are looked at or played out multiple times, there is a new revelation with every telling and an ending that left me both in awe and misty-eyed.
Readers rejoice! Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader, is back with another gripping novel of human relationships and their consequences. It’s again set in Salem, with some returning characters, which made it very easy to fall into the place and just flow with the story. Zee Finch, a psychotherapist, has come home to take care of her ailing father and to try to figure out her own life after the suicide of one of her patients, which was made even more difficult by Zee’s past–her mother committed suicide herself, in front of her. There is a complex weave of past and present, love and betrayals, beginnings and endings in this story that reads quickly and leaves you longing for Barry’s next book and a chance to visit her Salem yet again.
Brunonia Barry of The Lace Reader fame returns with a new fiction offering set in Salem, The Map of True Places. And it fittingly begins with the famous Melville quote: “It is not down in any map; true places never are.”
This is a novel of true places and those who seek them.
Psychologist Zee Finch returns to Salem to care for her ailing father, who is in the latter stages of Parkinson’s. Her life in Boston hasn’t been going well; her fiancé has broken their engagement and she has lost a patient to suicide. Zee is indeed in need of a map, but before she can plan a future she must understand her own past and explore her psychologist’s theory that daughters live out their mothers’ unfulled dreams. This proves to be a complex yet rewarding journey for both Zee and the reader.
Barry handles the various threads of the novel quite ably. Zee’s father, Finch, and his lover Melville, Finch’s healthcare provider Jessina, Maureen, Zee’s story teller mother, and Hawk, her new romantic interest, are each complex and well-developed characters who ring true. What was the relationship between Finch, Maureen, and Melville? Each character seems to view it differently. Did Lilly, Zee’s patient, actually commit suicide? How is Zee to find her way through the differing perspectives each character offers? As Finch loses his memory to dementia and Hawk teaches her celestial navigation, Zee must chart a path of her own through the past.
Barry’s novel is addictive reading. It is at once entertaining and thought provoking.
What Readers and Reviewers are saying about The Lace Reader
“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
“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
“In The Lace Reader, Barry has written one of those lovely novels that is easy to dive into and that lingers in your thoughts. The haunting questions about what exactly happened, how, when and why, will keep your brain happily digesting this book long after the covers are closed.”
St. Petersburg Times
“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
“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.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Barry does a fantastic job of sketching out her characters. The Whitney women, one and all, are intriguingly real.”
San Antonio Express-News
“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
“A ‘romance’ in the Nathaniel Hawthorne sense of the word a dark tale of sin and guilt that blends the mundane and the fantastic, with a glimmer of redemptive hope at its core that all the Gothic trappings cannot obscure.”
“The Lace Reader unravels a magical, yet tragic family’s tale…Barry has cleverly and delightfully set us up. With one fell swoop, she cuts the last thread, and the characters she has so carefully created unravel to reveal secrets we had not even begun to guess.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“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.”
“Barry’s depictions of her characters’ altered states of consciousness are beautifully rendered. And The Lace Reader establishes Brunonia Barry as a force…”
“The Lace Reader is a page-turner, and the ending is almost as shocking as the film ‘The Sixth Sense.'”
“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 (Toronto)
“Past and present mysteries merge in a fast-moving narrative that builds through a numerous small dramas to a theatrical conclusion.”
Katherine Turman, Elle
“Barry weaves a suspenseful tale of witchcraft and dark mystery…Barry’s depictions of time and place are marvelously descriptive.”
Rozanne Price, Elle
“An ambitious debut. Unusual and otherworldly, this is a blizzard of a story which manages to pull together its historical, supernatural and psychiatric elements. A survivor’s tale of redemption.”
“What makes Brunonia Barry’s compulsively readable debut even more interesting is the spice added by fillips both psychic and supernatural.”
“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 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.”
“If you choose just one novel to read in these waning days of summer, it should be the lovely and terrifically paced The Lace Reader. . . Barry has created a wholly original story, a surreal and feverish book with the smell of Massachusetts sea air practically wafting off every page.”
“Brunonia Barry spins a veil of lace before the readers’ eyes, lifting it by degrees to reveal her characters’ secrets in an enchanting first novel, THE LACE READER…[Barry's narrative is] magical and believable at the same time, not unlike J.K. Rowling managed so deftly in the Harry Potter books. It’s realism with an undercurrent of natural magic, both dark and light. In the end, the lace Barry has spun is lifted from our eyes. The final pages are a revelation true to the characters and the plot.”
“Barry has written a meditative, lyric novel that in its discursive storytelling style full of digressions and expository sections on interesting facts will appeal to people who enjoy savoring a book one section at a time.”
Raleigh News and Observer
“[For] fans of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind.”
“[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.”
Daily News (NY)
“An engrossing modern-day twist on the classic Gothic novel. . . .the story both astonishes and satisfies. In short, The Lace Reader is great entertainment.”
“Gripping. . .a marvelously bizarre cast of characters (living and dead) in a uniquely colorful town.”
Washington Post Book World
“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.”
Janet Maslin, New York Times – July 24, 2008
The People Pick – Recommended
“An absorbing spine-tingler set in Salem. Barry’s mystery has an irresistible pull and an ending that rattles your understanding of everything that’s come before. The Lace Reader is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club.”
Sue Corbett, People Magazine – August 4, 2008
“A richly imagined saga of passion, suspense and magic.”
Time Magazine July 24, 2008
“Barry excels at capturing the feel of small-town life, and balances action with close looks at the characters’ inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“What if you could read your future in a piece of lace?…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 has previously written books for the YA fiction series “Beacon Street Girls.” In this, her first original adult novel, she combines her focus on the history of this particular community, including its witchcraft trials, religious cults, and quotidian seaport life, with her study of a fractured family seeking truth to bring us a most unusual and bewitching novel. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal Starred Review