Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Lace Makers of Glenmara"

Heather 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 applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, The Lace Makers of Glenmara, and reported the following:
My second novel, The Lace Makers of Glenmara tells the story of Kate, a 26-year-old American who unexpectedly finds herself stranded in a Gaelic village in Western Ireland. There, she begins the slow process of healing from past loss and heartbreak, as she forms a bond with a group of Lace Makers: Bernie, alone and yearning for a new purpose since the death of her husband; Aileen, who despairs over conflicts with her teenage daughter; Moira, caught in a cycle of abuse and detail; Oona, in remission from breast cancer; and Colleen, worried about her fisherman husband, missing at sea.

Is page 69 representative of the novel? Yes and no. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, given that it’s a relatively quiet excerpt, but it does give a good snapshot of Bernie and Aileen’s relationship, and how Kate, though warmly embraced by most of the lace makers, isn’t welcomed by everyone.

In this chapter, Aileen has gone over to Bernie’s for tea. The two women have known each other since childhood, Bernie the eternal optimistic, and Aileen her opposite. Bernie is generally a good listener, and Aileen needs to vent about her daughter, her sister, Moira, and even the state of her marriage. Instead, she finds that Bernie is distracted by their new visitor, Kate, to whom she has offered a room—and friendship, leaving Aileen feeling displaced.

Well, Moira was another story. Moira, who resented her and loved her all at once.

It was easier with Bernie, a lifelong friend who accepted Aileen as she was, who laughed at her jokes and sympathized with her problems, large and small. Aileen could be herself with Bernie, her other self, the self that wasn’t a mother or a wife, just Aileen, Ailey, a girl once more. Bernie the link to her past. Aileen depended on those Mondays, on Bernie.

She noticed the table was set for two, not three. “Has she gone then?”

“Kate? No. She’s delivering the paper.”

“If I’d known you’d needed help—” Aileen sometimes pitched in with the deliveries. She couldn’t believe Bernie hadn’t asked her first. She knew the routes, the customers.

Bernie poured the tea. “I thought it would do her good to get to know the place better.”

“Why would she want to do that? She said she was moving on.”

That’s what Aileen thinks—or hopes. Instead, Kate ends up staying, stirring up a resentment in Aileen that knows no bounds.

While p. 69 gives a taste of the novel’s tone and the women’s daily lives, it doesn’t contain the evocative descriptions of the landscape, the snappy dialogue, nor other colorful characters that make the novel especially rich and charming—but be assured: most of the other 199 pages do!
Read an excerpt from The Lace Makers of Glenmara, and learn more about the book and autor at Heather Barbieri’s website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue