Book: A Spool of Blue Thread
By: Anne Tyler
Genre: Fiction, Literature, Family Saga
According to the back of the book A Spool of Blue Thread, this book was “named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Telegraph, and Bookpage.” Wow! I’m in!
It is a story of a family, the Whitshanks, which opens with Abby and Red, the matriarch and patriarch of the family. It’s one of those dreaded late night calls that they have received from their adult son Denny. And the worry starts, yet, do parents ever stop worrying about their children? Right off the bat it feels like a family story with the back and forth between Abby and Red talking about the situation with Denny. As the reader you start to get a glimpse of Abby who wants everything to be right for everyone and Red who is starting to unfold as the practical fella though he may be a bit old fashioned.
Through the book we learn the history of Abby and Red, how they met, and how they ended up where they are with their four children. Author, Anne Tyler, gives us some insight into the siblings, how they interact with one another, their parents, and their aunt, Red’s sister. We can see how some of the habits and ways of thinking have passed from parent to child and down through the generations. We also see how the rest of the family struggles to relate to the odd child, the one that is almost alien, unlike any of the other family. Folded into the story are the lives of the grandparents, both Abby and Red’s parents. We get a glimpse of the era in which they grew up and what shaped their lives.
The writing style is easy and engaging with a nice balance between dialogue and description. I found myself getting lost in the story, every so often making comparisons with my own family. Such as the defining stories that shape a family and those family stories that we tell each other and really, anyone who will listen, over and over. Or the part about the aging parents with the siblings having to manage the end of life issues that start to crop up. Yet at the same time they have to learn to let go some of the old hurts and jealousies. It’s the stuff of families with characters that are nicely developed and believable.
The title is interesting to me because it makes no sense at all until the very end of the book. But it actually fits in nicely and ends the story well.
Even though we are following the ups and downs of the family I found it light reading and would recommend this book. I think it would be a great vacation or rainy Sunday afternoon kind of read - it is enjoyable and forgettable. For that reason I don’t think I would have put it in the category of best book of the year.
You can decide for yourself though! Here’s the link.