Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Blue is my favorite color

Sometimes I need time to really think about a book before I write any sort of review about it. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler wasn't really that type of book, but I was away from my computer when I finished it. I only hope I can remember enough to write something worthy here. (I also pray that I can remember enough about the book to be able to discuss it at a book club meeting a few months from now!)

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed A Spool of Blue Thread. I think it's a good book club book because there are a lot of things that can be discussed. But there was very little action in the book and it wasn't overly character-driven either. It's a family story about a quite ordinary family from Baltimore going back as far as Red's parents and going forward to Red's kids. (The grandchildren are minor characters in the story so it would really be a stretch to say that the plot covered 4 generations.)

Red and Abby Whitshank are a perfectly ordinary couple, parents of 4 children, living in a house that Red's father, Junior, built for wealthy clients but which Junior aspired to live in. He got his wish. The house is as much a character in the book as any of the children - or even Red, Abby, Junior or Linnie Mae.

(Another text-to-self connection here... my family is currently getting ready to sell a house that has been in our family for over 80 years... longer than the Whitshanks lived in their house. Tyler gives you an excellent idea of what the house means to Red. Did my family home mean that much to anyone who had ever lived there? I suppose I will never know.)

The Whitshank kids, Amanda, Jeannie, Denny and Stem, are worried about Abby and Red living in that big old house alone. Abby experiences blackouts and Red has trouble hearing. The kids decide that the parents need help. But the parents don't think they need help nor do they want any help. This allows Tyler to unfold the stories of the Whitshank family. How they got to where they are today, what drives the children, what explains the relationships between the siblings. It's all quite ordinary but it's not. On the surface, the story is simple... and probably more common than I know in the community in which I am now living. It also brought back memories of what I experienced at the point where I worried that my parents probably should not have been living on their own.

Tyler weaves the story back and forth through different periods of time. We start in 1994, jump forward to more current times, then back to learn the story of Red's parents in the 1930s. And then we're mostly back to the present. These movements through time make the story evolve in an unpredictable way. But isn't that the way real life is? The spool of thread that is the Whitshank family slowly unravels and we learn that all is not as it first appears.

I love family sagas. I love reading about ordinary (but not so ordinary) families. And I love Anne Tyler's style of writing. (My favorite book of hers is most likely Back When We Were Grownups.) A Spool of Blue Thread is the type of book that really demands to be read in one sitting. But because my reading time was broken up, it surprisingly took me over 2 weeks to finish.

And like I said, I hope I remember enough of what drew me in during my reading when it comes time to discuss this with my community book club.

P.S. Here's the link to my recap of the book club meeting where A Spool of Blue Thread was discussed.


  1. I loved this book as I also love family sagas. Thanks for your review. You can check out mine here.

    Marianne from
    Let's Read