Kate Robinson has left America behind after the death of her mother and a break-up with her boyfriend. She is traveling alone in Ireland when she comes upon the small town of Glenmara and is invited to stay with a widow named Bernie. Bernie is dealing with her own heartache and is one of a group of women who meet together to make handmade lace. Soon the women begin to teach Kate both the ways of the town and the ways of the lace. Because the town is economically unstable, the women decide to adopt Kate's idea of creating lace lingerie out of their creations and soon they begin to design beautiful and luxurious pieces for themselves. As each woman becomes the subject for design, her past and present are revealed. Bernie is longing for the husband who passed away and the children that the couple never had. Aileen is losing her teenage daughter to influences beyond her control. Moira is caught in an abusive marriage. Oona is living with a body ravaged by breast cancer and Colleen is forever wishing that her husband would come home from sea. When the women's project catches the eye of the stringent local priest, sparks begin to fly around the community. Now the women must not only come to terms with what is ailing each privately but also to defend their creations publicly. Both enchanting and heartfelt, The Lacemakers of Glenmara paints a beautiful portrait of the struggles of women and the friendships that aid them in their heartache.
When this book first hit the blogosphere, I was really excited about getting the chance to read it. Though it's not my usual fare, I thought that it would be interesting to read about lace makers in Ireland and the ways that their lives intersected. I read so many wonderful reviews of the book all over the place that I was eager to try it for myself and see what I thought of it. While I ultimately found the book to be a very pleasant and interesting diversion, there were some moments where I scratched my head in perplexity.
First off, I really liked Kate and thought that she was an eclectic and interesting character. Though she was running from heartbreak, she didn't pity herself and get caught up in moroseness and apathy. I thought it was pretty brave of her to venture into a country where she knew no one and nothing, and though I knew that at times her motive for travel was escape, she came across as a really adventurous woman. I also liked that she had talent as a clothing designer and used that skill to fit into her new surroundings. In her desire to help the women of the town, Kate uses the craft she knows well to draw inspiration from the women around her. I did have a bit of confusion as to why these lace undergarments were such a hit with the little town though. On the one hand, they may have never seen lace decorated panties and bras, but on the other, I considered it a tad unlikely. Ultimately, I was forced to see that the making of the lace into undergarments was just a bit of symbolism to describe the cathartic changes that took over the women after Kate's arrival.
I was also a little underwhelmed by the romance between Kate and one of the men of the town. There was very little setup and courtship between the two and I had a hard time understanding their mutual attraction. Sure, the gentleman in question was very easy on the eyes but I felt that Kate was such a rich character that maybe she would require a bit more out of a man she considered her paramour. When the relationship began to move forward, things became a bit more believable and plausible. The two lovers' pasts kept interfering in their budding relationship and it was up to them to share the secrets that were holding them apart. Though the relationship got off to a rocky start, as things progressed, I found myself more able to buy into the love between the two.
The relationship between the women in this book was the true wonder of this story. Their unity and love for one another outlasted the petty dramas and rivalries that they succumbed to from time to time. Most of the drama and recrimination came from Aileen's corner, for she could be very jealous and possessive at times. Aileen provided a lot of combustion between the lace makers and Kate and she did it with an outrageous sense of entitlement. The other women were more mild mannered, but as they moved into the spotlight, I began to see that they were all beset by personal difficulties and heartache. Though the foundation of the women's friendships had been cemented long ago, there was a constant push and pull between all of them and the newcomer Kate. I liked the steadfastness of their relationships and felt this gave the book a solidity and resonance beyond the threads that held the story together.
One of the things that I was most puzzled about in this book was the reactions of the priest to the ladies and their new creations. For the life of me, I just didn't understand why lace panties made him fear for the sanctity of his community! He was a really interesting character but I felt that his story sort of petered out in the end and I would have liked to see more come of his outrage. I guess I was hampered by the fact that I had never really lived in a small town, so I had a hard time understanding the social dynamics of the Church in relation to its supplicants in one. I would have loved to see a bit more done with this aspect of the story or maybe to have learned a little more about the priest's background. As it was, this was the part of the book that tripped me up a bit.
For the most part, I did enjoy this book and its look at a small community of women in Ireland but there were times when I felt that the story was a little underdeveloped. I think Barbieri accomplished a lot with this tale and it was a beautiful testament to women and the friendships that grace their lives. As I mentioned before, some of the aspects of the story were a bit puzzling to me, and in the case of this book, I wish it had been a bit longer in order to fully explore some of the things that I felt were a little raw. I think that readers who enjoy women's fiction would get a lot out of this book, as well as those who are armchair travelers. I can imagine that this would make a great summer read for a lot of folks. Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
|About Heather Barbieri
Heather Barbieri is half-Irish. Her paternal ancestors left counties Donegal and Tipperary after The Great Famine and worked in the coal mines of Eastern Pennsylvania before settling in Butte, Montana. Her impeccably dressed maternal grandmother was a descendant of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and instilled an avid interest in fashion in her granddaughters. Barbieri’s first novel, Snow in July (Soho Press), was selected as a Book Sense Pick, a Glamour magazine “Riveting Read” and a Library Journal Notable First Novel. Before turning to writing fiction full-time, she was a magazine editor, journalist and film critic. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and three children and is currently working on her third novel.
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|I want to give a warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review! Please continue to follow the tour stops to see what other readers have to say about this book!
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.