A great-aunt’s disappearance forces a troubled woman to confront her painful past.
This gripping story is narrated largely by Towner Whitney, a self-confessed liar. She suffers from hallucinations, admits to being crazy and has large chunks missing from her memory. When her great-aunt Eva disappears, Towner leaves Los Angeles for her native Salem, Mass., to unravel a past as twisted as the lace she and her female family members use to see glimpses of the future. Reading lace isn’t the only unusual behavior the Whitney women engage in. In fact, the entire family is known around town for their odd behavior, quirky even by Salem standards. There’s May, Towner’s mother, who helps battered women on a secluded island populated by a pack of wild golden retrievers, and Eva herself, who speaks only in clichÃ©s. Soon after her return, Towner finds herself in the center of a deeper mystery when another woman disappears: Angela Rickey, a runaway teen who fell in with the Calvinists, a fundamentalist Puritan cult headed by Cal Boynton, an abusive former alcoholic who was once married to Towner’s Aunt Emma. The entire town is sure that he was involved in one or both of the disappearances, but not even determined cop John Rafferty can find any evidence to support the rumors. Meanwhile, Towner is haunted by memories of Lyndley, her twin sister, whose death had a profound impact on her psyche. If they’re to figure out what has happened to Eva and Angela, Towner and Rafferty are going to have to decide what’s real and what exists only in Towner’s mind. As told through Towner’s skewed perspective, this is beautifully written and absolutely engrossing. The sense of place is almost palpable. The town is captured in detail, but it’s a slightly unreal Salem, one where tiny acts of magic happen every day.
Tense, enchanting and beautiful.