Summary and book reviews of A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread

by Anne Tyler

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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About this Book

Book Summary

Brimming with all the insight, humor, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler's work, a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity.

From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning author - now in the fiftieth year of her remarkable career - a brilliantly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel that reveals, as only she can, the very nature of a family's life.

"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.

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Simply stated, Anne Tyler's 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, is a beautifully constructed story, lovingly told with truly realistic and interesting characters.   (Reviewed by Davida Chazan).

Full Review (658 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Thoroughly enjoyable but incohesive, Tyler's latest chronicles the Whitshank family through several generations in Baltimore, Md.

Booklist

Starred Review. Junior's fervent respect for wood and craftsmanship reflects Tyler's long dedication to language and story, an artistic practice made perfect in this charming, funny, and shrewd novel of the paradoxes of self, family, and home.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The texture of everyday experience transmuted into art.

Library Journal

Now 73, [Tyler] continues to dazzle with this multigenerational saga, which glides back and forth in time with humor and heart and a pragmatic wisdom that comforts and instructs.

The Bookseller (UK)

A stunning novel about family life which just rings so true - it depicts the bonds and the tensions, the love and the exasperation beautifully.

The Sunday Times (UK)

Masterly . . . Magnificent . . . A gleamingly accomplished book.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

funny, moving, thought-provoking and, again, quite brilliant
“There was nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, they were no more than average…. But like most families, they imagined they were special. They took great ...   Read More

Jacqueline Baird

A Spool of Blue Thread
Anne Tyler, the Narrator of American families, usually in Baltimore. Why, oh why do her Novels have to end? The genuineness of the characters made me care about them immensely, even the Big Old House! In many ways "A Spool of Blue Thread" ...   Read More

stacerbase

Not her Best
Very disappointed with this novel. I have really enjoyed other novels by Anne Tyler. This one just spun its tale, and spun and spun. And really went no where. Halfway through the book I almost put it down, but trudged through it hoping the story ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

50-Year Writing Career: A Look at Anne Tyler

Anne TylerIn March 2013, Anne Tyler announced the title of her upcoming novel in an interview with the BBC. She also noted that she didn't want to finish another novel - not even this one. She described the book as a "sprawling family saga," which starts with the present generation and then moves back, one generation at a time. Fortunately, she realized she was only interested in three generations. Before this revelation, she figured A Spool of Blue Thread could go on long enough that she might die before its publication! That way she wouldn't have the hassle of the editing, polishing, promoting and worrying if the book was any good or not.

This sounds like the pressure of thinking up something new and original, combined with her obvious penchant ...

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