Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread

Family life never grows old in the hands of Anne Tyler, a master of domestic fiction who returns to familiar terrain in her 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread. This time around, Tyler (The Beginner's Goodbye) focuses on the Whitshank family of Baltimore, Md., launching the story with a call from wayward son Denny, who, at age 19, drops an attention-getting announcement on his parents, Abby and Red. He then hangs up and disappears from their lives--and the lives of his three siblings--for years. 

Tyler characterizes the Whitshanks as "one of those enviable families that radiate clannishness and togetherness and just... specialness," and Denny "trailed around their edges like some sort of charity case." Years later, when the entire family--including Denny--finally reunites in Baltimore, stories of the past are retold when Abby and Red's future living arrangements are called into question. 

The common thread binding the generational tapestry of the Whitshanks is the family home built by Red's father in the 1930s; the warm, inviting nature of the house comes to represent the family. In flashbacks, Tyler delves into the history of Red's parents and how Abby and Red met and married in 1950s. The stories of those who inhabited the residence deepen the meaning of the present-day predicament: with Abby and Red growing older and more infirm, the four disparate siblings and their spouses urge the couple to dismantle their bedrock, their beloved home, and make alternate living arrangements. 

Abby and Red's decision will not only affect their lives, but the lives of their children--particularly the two sons who struggle to reconcile their distinct places in the fold. Tension builds in this multi-generational saga as Tyler stitches together an intricate, insightful story about family history, memories, rivalries and long-held secrets.

Knopf, $25.95 Hardcover, 9781101874271, 368 pp
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (2/10/15), click HERE

This review was also featured (in a longer form) on Shelf Awareness: Book Trade (2/6/15). To read the longer review click HERE