Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Bond Street Books
Publication Date: Feb. 10, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The whole family–their two daughters and two sons, their grandchildren, even their faithful old dog–is on the porch, listening contentedly as Abby tells the tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different too: Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red’s father. Brimming with the luminous insight, humor, and compassion that are Anne Tyler’s hallmarks, this capacious novel takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.
A Spool of Blue Thread is a story of a family across generations. It tells a tale of the Whitshank family, their relationships with one another, and the changes that they’ve faced over time. They are a family that invented itself. Junior Whitshank rose out of the Great Depression to build a successful business and a life that he was proud of. The stories of the Whitshanks show that love comes in many forms and isn’t always conventional. It is often difficult, and can sometimes hurt. The Whitshanks know this better than anyone. Although they’ve had nothing but love for one another, they struggle to maintain their closeness and they’re all good at seeing the shortcomings in others, but less so in themselves. However, the bottom line is that despite their differences, they are always there for one another in the end.
Tyler’s novel is a great literary read. If you’re craving a story about family, this is the one for you. Although it’s a good length, Tyler’s writing whisks you through the story. The story chugs along a brisk pace. With a busy week, it only took me 3 evenings to get through. I read half of it last night! Tyler paints a very beautiful picture of this family. The characters are strong, opinionated, and real. They have life in them. It’s so difficult to create such a complex family, full of it’s triumphs and pitfalls, with characters spanning generations. But Tyler successfully creates each character to be independent and definitive.
I love that this story spans a few generations. We get to know Red and Abby and their children very intimately, both young and old. Tyler also gives us a peek into Junior (Red’s father)’s life as well. We see him during the Depression. They way that these characters interact with one another over time really provides a lot of explanation and understanding to their actions in the present. Tyler uses time to explain her characters and their motivations. She allows us to get a very in depth comprehension of this family as a whole.
My only major criticism is about the character Nora, Stem’s wife. When Tyler’s novel is so full of vibrant, well-rounded characters, Nora is a bit of a sore thumb. Nora is the reason that I’ve give this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. She’s boring and flat. Sure she’s helpful and a saint, as the other characters point out, but she’s more of an automaton than a woman. Her movements and actions felt mechanical, predictable. Even though she often plays the role of mediator, she tends to fade unimpressive into the background. In comparison to a strong story and such well-developed characters, Nora is quite a disappointment. She’s a minor character so she doesn’t hugely affect the plot. It’s easy to overlook her.
Overall though, A Spool of Blue Thread is a definite recommendation from me! What did you think of Tyler’s latest novel? Could you relate to the Whitshank family and all of their experiences?