16 February 2015

Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne TylerAnne Tyler is the queen of making something extraordinary out of the ordinary. In her most recent novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, she introduces us to four generations of the Whitshank family and the Baltimore, Maryland, house that has been at their center throughout the years.

At the core of the novel stand Abby and Red Whitshank, and through their story, we meet the rest of the family and learn how they came to live in the house on Bouton Road. As Abby gets increasing forgetful and Red begins to feel his age, their adult children offer different levels of support, sometimes increasing the stress instead of alleviating it.

Abby, in her seventies, is the heart of A Spool of Blue Thread. Like many women of her generation, she holds the family together, keeping the traditions going, giving unconditional love, and buffering discord. At the same time, she is strong and independent, not afraid to speak her mind or to pursue her own interests. She is also the link between the public and private sides not only of her family but also of others, who tend to open up to her, sharing their secrets.

As is often the case when people guard their truths from others, when Abby dies, so will pieces of the Whitshank history. But new generations and new traditions will fill in the gaps, repairing the bonds and creating new threads.

What makes Tyler such a pleasure to read is her focus on everyday concerns. The familiarity of the Whitshanks' issues help sharpen our perspectives because we see ourselves in the characters. The Whitshanks' stories are our own, and Anne Tyler's magic is to turn the ultimate human myth--that "like most families, they imagined they were special"--into truth.

Whether A Spool of Blue Thread is your first or your twentieth Anne Tyler novel, you'll be dazzled by her storytelling.

Note on the audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio; 13 hr 23 min) read by Kimberly Farr, whose expressive narration and excellent pacing were perfect for Tyler's characters. My full review of the audiobook production is available from AudioFile magazine.

Published by Random House / Knopf, February 10, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781101874271
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Julie Goucher 2/16/15, 6:49 AM  

This is on my must read list. Sadly the UK is miserable compared to this lovely one!

JoAnn 2/16/15, 8:24 AM  

I always enjoy Anne Tyler... the last several on audio. Not sure which route I'll go this time, but I will be reading it.

Sarah's Book Shelves 2/16/15, 8:33 AM  

I've never read Anne Tyler before, but I've been seeing this one everywhere and it looks interesting! I love the family saga type books.

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/16/15, 8:33 AM  

I love Ann Tyler too, and can't wait to read this one. This is a great review.

bermudaonion 2/16/15, 9:04 AM  

I love Anne Tyler and have got to get my hands on this book!

Kailana 2/16/15, 10:07 AM  

I have never really thought of Anne Tyler as a 'me' author but I could be wrong on that... Will have to try her at least once!

Kay 2/16/15, 11:09 AM  

I love how you phrased it "making something extraordinary out of the ordinary". I think recalling the Tyler books that I have read, that is an apt description. It's been a long time since I tried one of her books and I think that audio might be the way for me to go.

Katherine P 2/16/15, 11:15 AM  

I've read one Anne Tyler and enjoyed it but was compelled to read more. This does sound interesting. I love the family saga aspect and that audio is a great choice for this one. Thanks for sharing! I'll have to see if my library has the audio.

Beth Hoffman 2/16/15, 11:51 AM  

Beautiful review! I read this book when it first launched and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Laurel-Rain Snow 2/16/15, 12:00 PM  

Anne Tyler is always a must read for me, and you said it so nicely: she makes "something extraordinary out of the ordinary."

I can't wait to read this one. Great review!

Anonymous,  2/16/15, 1:30 PM  

I've never read Tyler before, but the publisher sent me this book as a surprise. I'm thinking I should make the time to pick it up!

OnDBookshelf 2/16/15, 1:46 PM  

I just purchased this one. I love family saga stories, and I've read several books by Anne Tyler, so it's a win win for me :)

Sue Jackson 2/16/15, 5:39 PM  

I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book. I haven't read an Anne Tyler book in decades but would love to again. Thanks for the review!


Book By Book

Anonymous,  2/17/15, 8:32 AM  

I've always loved Tyler, and I seem to remember reading somewhere that this will be her last novel. Not sure where, though, so I may just be losing my mind. Anyway, if that's true, it makes me sad, and all the more anxious to get my hands on this one.

Daryl 2/17/15, 10:43 AM  

i adored Saint Maybe … and i think i would love this one .. thanks

Carole 2/17/15, 3:27 PM  

thanks! I've ordered this one up from the library. Cheers

Laurie C 2/17/15, 6:11 PM  

I love Anne Tyler, but I don't think I've ever listened to one. Or maybe I did listen to Digging to America, now that I think of it. Thanks for the audio review of this one!

Unknown 2/17/15, 8:45 PM  

My copy arrived yesterday in the mail. I can't wait to read!!!

Nan 2/22/15, 8:52 PM  

I really want to read this. Thanks for the great review.

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