Tyler's story of three generations of the Whitshank family has all the typical hallmarks for which she is so well known. There is family drama and dysfunction and sorrow aplenty, but Tyler also has an amazing way of exposing family in all its ugly and beautiful glory. These characters love each other, except when they don't, and every interaction is crackling with Tyler's quirky and unassuming wit. Full of layered, whole characters, A Spool of Blue Thread shows how lives intersect — very rarely neatly — and how that mess gives meaning to every human connection. Tyler is a master of her craft — this being her 20th novel — and she is a treasure to read. You will recognize your own family (and yourself) in these pages, and cry, laugh, and cringe accordingly. So lovely! Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Tyler is as fleet and graceful as a skater, her prose as transparent as ice....We get swept up in the spin of conversations, the slipstream of consciousness, and the glide and dip of domestic life, then feel the sting of Tyler's quick and cutting insights into unjust assumptions about class, gender, age, and race....Tyler's long dedication to language and story [is] an artistic practice made perfect in this charming, funny, and shrewd novel of the paradoxes of self, family, and home." Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred)
"Tyler gives us lovely insights into an ordinary family who, 'like most families...imagined they were special.' They will be special to readers thanks to the extraordinary richness and delicacy with which Tyler limns complex interactions and mixed feelings familiar to us all and yet marvelously particular to the empathetically rendered members of the Whitshank clan. The texture of everyday experience transmuted into art....Family life in Baltimore [is] still a fresh and compelling subject in the hands of this gifted veteran." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Anne Tyler's novels are invitations to spend time in the houses of the Baltimore neighborhood that she has built — house by house, block by block, word by word — over her long and bright career." Francine Prose, The New York Review of Books
"Tyler has proved again and again that a chronicle of middle-class family life in Baltimore can illuminate the human condition as acutely as any novel of ideas, albeit with a more modest demeanor....The Whitshanks [are] rendered with such immediacy and texture that they might be our next-door neighbors." Wendy Smith, Los Angeles Times
"Happily, A Spool of Blue Thread is a throwback to the meaty family dramas with which Tyler won her popularity in the 1980s....As in the best of her novels, she here extends her warmest affection to the erring, the inconstant, and the mismatched — the people who are 'like anybody else,' in Red's words." Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"Graceful and capacious....Quintessential Anne Tyler, as well as quintessential American comedy. Tyler has a knack for turning sitcom situations into something far deeper and more moving. Her great gift is playing against the American dream, the dark side of which is the falsehood at its heart: that given hard work and good intentions, any family can attain the Norman Rockwell ideal of happiness....She's a comic novelist, and a wise one." Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, New York Times Book Review
"An act of literary enchantment....How can it be so wonderful?...Tyler remains among the best chroniclers of family life this country has ever produced....Some of the most lovely and loving writing Tyler has ever done." Washington Post
"Deeply moving...A Spool of Blue Thread is a miracle of sorts, a tender, touching and funny story about three generations of an ordinary American family who are, of course, anything but....Tyler's accomplishment in this understated masterpiece is to convince us not only that the Whitshanks are remarkable but also that every family — no matter how seemingly ordinary — is in its own way special." Associated Press
"You legion of lovers of Anne Tyler are going to get this new novel of hers and love it, too....With this novel, as with her others, it's easy to underestimate or simply miss the art that looks and feels so much like life — which is, after all the essence of Anne Tyler's art and, like life, never easy at its best." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Tyler tenderly unwinds the tangled skeins of three generations, then knits them together...in precise often hilarious detail....By the end of this deeply beguiling novel, we come to know a reality entirely different form the one at the start. Not that anyone's lying, only that everything — the way we see the world and the way we understand it to work — is changed by the intimate, incremental shifts of daily life." O magazine
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . . This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.
Brimming with all the insight, humor, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.
From the acclaimed author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing, the incandescent story of a 104-year-old woman and the sweet, strange young boy assigned to help her around the house—a friendship with unexpected reverberations for the boy's unmoored family
About the Author
MONICA WOOD is the author of When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine. Her 2005 novel Any Bitter Thing spent twenty-one weeks on the American Booksellers Association extended bestseller list and was named a Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark and My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award. She lives in Portland, Maine.