Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The Lace Makers of Glenmara

"You can always start again," Kate Robinson's mother once told her, "all you need is a new thread."

This line is the recurring theme in this lovely novel The Lace Makers of Glenmara by author Heather Barbieri. Reeling from heartbreak and loss, Kate embarks on a journey she and her mother had always planned. Her mother's early death, the ending of her long-term relationship, and the failure of her life-long dream of her own clothing design send the 26-year-old to Ireland, the home of her mother's ancestors, to try to discover a way to move on from the pain she carries in her heart.

She stumbles upon the small town of Glenmara, a tiny coastal village that is struggling to survive as their young people abandon it for the bigger cities of Dublin and London. She meets a group of women who carry on the ancient tradition of making lace, having been taught by their mothers and grandmothers. Embracing Kate and taking her into their group, they teach her their craft and soon she finds a home for her talents as well as her heart.

For, not only are these women lacemakers, they are also women who carry their own burdens of loss and heartache. Bernie is looking for a purpose for her life since her husband died two years ago, Oona is trying to regain her sense of self after surviving breast cancer, Moira is dealing with an abusive husband, and Colleen's fisherman husband is missing at sea, and Aileen is watching her teen-aged daughter, and possibly her marriage, slip through her fingers. Then Kate meets Sullivan Deane, a man who has his own haunted and tragic tale and recognizes the same in Kate.

This is such a sweet story. It is not all sweetness and light; Aileen resents Kate's presence and feels threatened by the young American who seems to have captivated the rest of the women. The parish priest sees her as a menace to his flock and is determined to drive her away from Glenmara. But through it all Kate remembers how her mother showed her the way. Nothing is so awful it cannot be recovered from. All you need is a new thread.

My best friend of 43 years recommended this book to me, saying it reminded her of my own novel In the Company of Women. There are many similarities, specifically how women support, love and share each others burdens. The relationship between Bernie and Aileen reminded me a lot of my friend and myself. They've been friends forever, and their conversations are sprinkled with memories of their long history together.

While I completely enjoyed this book, there is a feeling toward the end that Ms. Barbieri is trying to wrap things up, and it felt a bit rushed to me. It does not detract from the story, and I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who has had a friend who has stood by her through the trials of her life. I think if you read the story of The Lace Makers of Glenmara you will find some familiar characters.

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