Excerpt from A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Spool of Blue Thread

by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler X
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2016, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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Excerpt
A Spool of Blue Thread

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny. They were getting ready for bed at the time. Abby was standing at the bureau in her slip, drawing hairpins one by one from her scattery sand-colored topknot. Red, a dark, gaunt man in striped pajama bottoms and a white T shirt, had just sat down on the edge of the bed to take his socks off; so when the phone rang on the nightstand beside him, he was the one who answered. "Whitshank residence," he said.

And then, "Well, hey there."

Abby turned from the mirror, both arms still raised to her head.

"What's that," he said, without a question mark.

"Huh?" he said. "Oh, what the hell, Denny!"

Abby dropped her arms.

"Hello?" he said. "Wait. Hello? Hello?"

He was silent for a moment, and then he replaced the receiver.

"What?" Abby asked him.

"Says he's gay."

"What?"

"Said he needed to tell me something: he's gay."

"And you hung up on him!"

"No, Abby. He hung up on me. All I said was 'What the hell,' and he hung up on me. Click! Just like that."

"Oh, Red, how could you?" Abby wailed. She spun away to reach for her bathrobe—a no-color chenille that had once been pink. She wrapped it around her and tied the sash tightly. "What possessed you to say that?" she asked him.

"I didn't mean anything by it! Somebody springs something on you, you're going to say 'What the hell,' right?"

Abby grabbed a handful of the hair that pouffed over her forehead.

"All I meant was," Red said, "?'What the hell next, Denny? What are you going to think up next to worry us with?' And he knew I meant that. Believe me, he knew. But now he can make this all my fault, my narrow-mindedness or fuddy-duddiness or whatever he wants to call it. He was glad I said that to him. You could tell by how fast he hung up on me; he'd been just hoping all along that I would say the wrong thing."

"All right," Abby said, turning practical. "Where was he calling from?"

"How would I know where he was calling from? He doesn't have a fixed address, hasn't been in touch all summer, already changed jobs twice that we know of and probably more that we don't know of . . . A nineteen-year-old boy and we have no idea what part of the planet he's on! You've got to wonder what's wrong, there."

"Did it sound like it was long distance? Could you hear that kind of rushing sound? Think. Could he have been right here in Baltimore?"

"I don't know, Abby."

She sat down next to him. The mattress slanted in her direction; she was a wide, solid woman. "We have to find him," she said. Then, "We should have that whatsit—caller ID." She leaned forward and gazed fiercely at the phone. "Oh, God, I want caller ID this instant!"

"What for? So you could phone him back and he could just let it ring?"

"He wouldn't do that. He would know it was me. He would answer, if he knew it was me."

She jumped up from the bed and started pacing back and forth, up and down the Persian runner that was worn nearly white in the middle from all the times she had paced it before. This was an attractive room, spacious and well designed, but it had the comfortably shabby air of a place whose inhabitants had long ago stopped seeing it.

"What did his voice sound like?" she asked. "Was he nervous? Was he upset?"

"He was fine."

"So you say. Had he been drinking, do you think?"

"I couldn't tell."

"Were other people with him?"

"I couldn't tell, Abby."

"Or maybe . . . one other person?"

He sent her a sharp look. "You are not thinking he was serious," he said.

Excerpted from A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. Copyright 2015 by Anne Tyler. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC.

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