Hamilton East Public Library logo

My Account

Hours & Location

Get A Library Card

March 10, 2016

A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread

By Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread is Anne Tyler’s 20th novel, and, as with most of her works, it centers on family life in and around Baltimore. She tells the story of the Whitshanks, who “like most families…imagined they were special.” Abby and Red have two sons and two daughters, and the story opens with the return of Abby and Red’s son Denny. Denny is the “prodigal son” that just shows up every now and then and is non-communicative about his life while away. Other members of the family are frustrated by this, and yet have adjusted lowering their expectations concerning Denny. This becomes more of an issue when Red has a heart attack and Abby begins to have “mind skips.” Conflicts arise as the Whitshank children begin to deal with caring for their aging parents. Secrets are revealed as family roles and responsibilities begin to shift. Tyler also harkens back to the story of Junior Whitshank (Red’s father,) a master builder who manipulates his way into ownership of the house he has been commissioned to build. The family home is central to the story and is part of the “thread” that holds the family and the story together.

Tyler is a master of character-driven fiction. Her books provide penetrating glimpses into common, domestic aspects of family life (sometimes dysfunctional family life,) telling the stories with poignancy and humor. Plots are seldom complex in these leisurely-paced stories. But, Tyler’s prose a pleasure to experience, and she immerses the reader in the lives of her characters – it feels as though you are “in the room.” Tyler is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize (Breathing Lessons,) and the National Book Critics Circle Award (Accidental Tourist.) A Spool of Blue Thread was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Other books by Anne Tyler: Book List

The Fiction Fans Book Discussion Group will be reading Tyler’s forthcoming book, Vinegar Girl, a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Join us August 14 at the Fishers Amphitheater!

Review By: Donna Lefeber