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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
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A Spool of Blue Thread

by Anne Tyler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,1041534,548 (3.64)270
  1. 20
    Dear Life by Alice Munro (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Both books focus on ordinary lives and families with a strong sense of place. Both are written by a master at the top of her game.
  2. 10
    The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These character-driven novels sensitively present elderly protagonists whose memories unfold to reveal the charms and struggles of family life. Both have a strong sense of place: Baltimore in A Spool of Blue Thread; Manitoba in The Stone Angel.… (more)
  3. 10
    Some Luck by Jane Smiley (cat.crocodile)
  4. 00
    The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (thea-block)
  5. 00
    Someone by Alice McDermott (zhejw)
  6. 00
    Tara Road by Maeve Binchy (thea-block)
    thea-block: Common themes and tones run throughout both stories: home-town feel; descriptions of the lifetimes of somewhat ordinary/somewhat extraordinary people; love and loss, regret and gratefulness, parents and children.
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» See also 270 mentions

English (149)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (152)
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
I've wanted to read Anne Tyler for a very long time but whenever I picked up one of her novels it never seemed to be the right time. Their wordiness told me, this is not going to be a light or easy read. It certainly holds true for A Spool of Blue Thread but it was chosen for my book group so it was the perfect time to FINALLY see what Tyler is all about.
If Blue Thread is any indication, Tyler is indeed wordy yet the excessive amount serves a purpose. In this case, they transport the reader to Baltimore where young Junior Whitshank, an apprentice carpenter/construction worker builds a lovely home for the Brill family. Through patience and manipulation, Junior eventually becomes the owner and the house becomes home to generations of Whitshanks.
If plot and character development are key to you, it will not be found here. What does capture the reader is Tyler's sense of observation and the ability to tell a family oriented story containing moments, people and circumstances which may be familiar to many a reader and form a connection that is both nostalgic and contemporary. ( )
  Carmenere | Nov 14, 2018 |
I’m glad I didn’t let Clock Dance put me off reading any of Anne Tyler’s other work. Although that book was a disappointment it still showcased her skill in depicting characters and the relationships between them. As it turns out this one went beyond the well-written character-based fiction I was expecting. It delved into the character of families themselves and even the home they lived in became an enduring presence in their lives. I definitely plan to read more from this author. ( )
  wandaly | Nov 2, 2018 |
Saga of several generations of a family, beautifully written by Anne Tyler. The major focus is on Abby and Red Whitshank and their four adult children, but going back in time to their childhoods and those of the forebears. Written as only Tyler can, with pathos, humor, drama, love and laughter. A wonderful addition to her repertoire. ( )
  bogopea | Oct 3, 2018 |
A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler, read for library book group.

Anne Tyler is good at telling family stories. She'll be telling you the story from one person's point of view, and it all makes sense, and then she takes a step to the left, and maybe it's just a new perspective or maybe there is an enormous thing right there, that the previous perspective overlooked, but everything looks different from here. Not that anyone was lying. It makes sense that the thing that looks so big from here seemed insignificant from over there. Everybody's story makes sense, but they each make a different sense.

Tyler also likes telling stories in which there are two kinds of people in the world. In this world, they are the people who set their heart on one thing and never give up, even if it turns out to be a disappointment, and the people who can never settle to any one thing. It's a lot of work to be in relationship with people who are so fundamentally different. Even when everyone is trying to be kind, and fair, and honest, it's a lot of work.

One member of my book group said it was an Oprah's Book Club-type book, which I guess is true; it provides an easy path to talk about questions like, how do you feel about forgiveness? Or, what do you do with an important truth that you know is going to hurt? ( )
  susanramirez | Sep 17, 2018 |
Utterly absorbing family saga that completely wraps you up. When you've finished, you think "not a great deal really happened!" But that doesn't stop it being totally engrossing.
The narrative opens with the middle-aged Whitshanks and their four grown-up children. They almost seem a Waltons type family, headed by builder Red and social-worker Abby...and yet, there seem to be tensions, imperfections, notably in their distant, drop-out son Denny. We follow them through the years, into old age...their changing relationship to their kids, the characters and situations so plausible.
Then Tyler drags us back in time: to the (often described by Abby) beautiful afternoon when the pair met. But the anecdotal glories of a time and a place are never exactly true; always there are undercurrents, flaws...the people beaming out of a photograph aren't REALLY having a perfect day. This is the actual day, related by an impartial narrator.
And then back again: Red's parents (who we met in the previous section, where his mother describes the Romeo and Juliet romance of her husband and herself) are re-visited in their youth, to see just how their relationship began.
Before shifting back to the Whitshanks; a situation that doesn't all come to a satisfying and implausible conclusion, but sort of drifts on, as life does.
The Sunday Express describes it as 'Effortlessly enthralling' and I don't thnk I can improve on that. ( )
  starbox | Sep 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
Readers anticipating an easy “domestic” novel will be terrifically surprised...Tyler’s genius as a novelist involves her ability to withhold moral judgment of her characters.....Tyler is in full command of her scenes and her characters, grounding her reader in time and space in every sequence of this tightly written and highly readable novel. .....Breaking with a conventional linear structure, the final and most compelling chapters belong to Abby and relay the series of events that led to her falling in love with Red, a story that exists only in Abby’s memory, told here to the reader. The discoveries in these final pages are likely to force readers to reflect back on the earlier chapters and view them in an entirely new — and much darker — light. Here we see the truth about every love story: It was merely an accident of chance.
 
Readers of any age should have no trouble relating to Abby's complaint that "the trouble with dying ... is that you don't get to see how everything turns out. You won't know the ending." Her daughter protests, "But, Mom, there is no ending." To which Abby replies, "Well, I know that." And then Tyler adds the unspoken kicker her fans have come to look for: "In theory." We can only hope that Tyler will continue spooling out her colorful Baltimore tales for a long time to come.
 
Now 73, Tyler has hinted that this might be her last novel. If so, she may not have ended with a masterpiece, but she has given us plenty of reminders of her lavish strengths: the quiet authority of her prose; the ultimately persuasive belief that a kindly eye is not necessarily a dishonest one; and perhaps above all, the fact that, 50 years after she started, she still gives us a better sense than almost anyone else of what it’s like to be part of a family – which for most of us also means a better sense than almost anyone else of what it’s like to be alive.

And if all that’s not enough to earn a top-table place, then maybe it’s time to rethink the criteria for qualification.
 


Indeed, very little happens in her books. Characters get caught up in repetitive, dead-end conversations which merely fill the gaps, and where silence, existentialist terror and a fear of death continually lingers.

But in this passing of time — where seasons change, flowers wither, then bloom again, people marry, babies are born and the elderly die slowly with dignity — Tyler then weighs in with her own subtle commentary as a narrator who exudes tremendous skill and precision.

It is in these details that she attempts to convey truth, meaning and esthetic beauty. And Tyler’s narrative is a brilliant testament to why the novel still provides an enormously important role in our culture, allowing us to capture the little bits of humanity that somehow seem to bypass us in the real world. ...A Spool of Blue Thread primarily focuses on domestic dreams and disputes, daily ceremonial acts and relationships. Love, loss, and death are about the only certainties the author can guarantee. Family is all we have, Tyler’s prose seems to suggest.
 
Tyler is in the top rank of American writers, and moments in this novel have an affinity with Canada’s Alice Munro too. But what she has that neither Robinson nor Munro possess to the same degree is an irrepressible sense of the comedy beneath even the most melancholy surface – or sometimes peeking just above it – in human affairs.

Tyler is good on irony too....Tyler is sensitive to the tragicomedy of old age and its indignities. Her writing is characterised by an amused, sweeping tolerance that acknowledges imperfection at all ages. ..Tyler writes with witty economy..It takes organised wit to write about human muddle as Tyler does, without once losing our attention or the narrative’s spool of blue thread.
 
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Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.
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Book description
'It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon...' This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They've all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself. From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we also see played out our own hopes and fears, rivalries and tensions - the essential nature of family life.
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"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"--… (more)

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