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Review: The Lace Makers of Glenmara, Heather Barbieri

Kate Robinson’s life is in tatters.  Her long-term boyfriend has dumped her, her fashion career is failing thanks to an incompetent advisor, and her mother has died.  Determined to renew herself, Kate departs on a long trip to Ireland, where she and her mother had planned to go before the cancer took away all plans.  Inadvertently, she stumbles upon Glenmara and a group of five women who have carried on the hereditary tradition of making lace while their own lives are uncertain and unhappy.  Together, Kate and the lace makers of Glenmara strive to not only rediscover their own lives, but to give their fading town a fresh start on the world stage.

I think the key word when it comes to this book is simply “not enough”.  The Lace Makers of Glenmara is meant to be inspiring and heart-warming with a simple story about the friendships between women, with one in particular as a focal point.  As always, Ireland itself is enchanting, and Glenmara and its generally aging residents are a product of a society long gone.  There is a mystical touch on Kate’s journey to Glenmara with William the Traveller.  Kate’s need for a new outlook on life is completely understandable.  Yet so much of this book rang false for me.  It seemed incredibly unlikely that Bernie would offer to let a stranger live with her when they had only met five minutes ago, against the advice of her best friend.  The romance was incredibly quick and not at all fleshed out.  Kate and Sullivan basically fall into bed together and are immediately serious after that with no real development of the initial relationship, so his panic shortly afterwards just seems strange.  This is especially so given that we’re told he sleeps around quite frequently and is never serious about anyone.  Kate seems different just because she reminds him of someone else, but that’s an incredibly shaky base for a relationship.  Lace making itself is undoubtedly fascinating, but again, few details are really given in the book.  The events within could also have been incredibly moving, and the book tries hard to accomplish that, but we haven’t spent enough time with the characters to feel grief on their behalf.

At its core, the story is still a good one.  I love how the lace could renew a community by giving it new strength and new visitors.  Its effect on the women’s lives is itself slightly magical, which adds to the overall mystical feel of the book.   It isn’t that I disliked the book, it is just that I put it down wishing for more story, more detail, more characters, more everything.  The Lace Makers of Glenmara is well conceived but poorly executed.

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