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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book review: A Spool of Blue Thread

 A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1968 I was a junior in high school when I read a paperback copy of  Anne Tyler's first novel, If Morning Ever Comes. (I know it was published in 1964.)  Forty-six years later she is still writing and I am still reading. We have all known families like those in her books: quirky (dysfunctional is too harsh a term) people that you are relieved you are not related to, though deep down inside you know that your family has its own quirks. I have a sharp mental picture of the houses where Anne Tyler's families live -- spacious but not too big, old but not too old, comfortable and unostentatious, with attics and basements and sun porches, and somewhat overgrown perennial gardens.

Blue Thread is Tyler's 20th novel. She revisits familiar places and themes: the profound effect that the environment of our youth (familial and geographical) has on the rest of our lives.  Red and Abby Whitshank are the second generation to live in the Baltimore house that Red's father built in the 1930's. Three of their grown children live nearby while the fourth, the black sheep, leaves and returns often. Abby, social worker by profession and peacemaker by nature, wants to keep the family together. Red's parents, Junior and Linnie Mae, arrived in Baltimore during the Depression and did not reveal much about their North Carolina origins.

The Whitshanks are stricken by tragedy, which is the opening Tyler uses to tell the reader about Junior and Linnie Mae's story. The metaphorical spool of blue thread is an actual spool, and in the end the family secrets are sewn up and put away for another generation to discover.

I *loved* this book and I am sorry that other readers must wait until February, 2015, to read it.


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