by Anne Tyler
Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Length: 13 hrs and 23 mins
Genres: Literary Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
“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.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler takes us into the lives of the Whitshanks from the 1920’s to present day giving us glimpses into their daily lives, beginnings, frustrations and life’s ever-changing cycles. Humorous, poignant and complex Tyler brought this family to life sharing the complexity of family life.
I chose to listen to A Spool of Blue Thread and I am delighted that I did. Kimberly Farr the narrator beautifully captured the characters and I loved listening to the lilt in her voice. I would say that this was more of a reading as voice changes for characters were subtle.
“But it has occurred to me, on occasion, that our memories of our loved ones might not be the point. Maybe the point is their memories—all that they take away with them.”
The tale takes place in Baltimore and centers on the Whitshanks family home. The book takes us back and forth through time sharing moments with the four generations who grew up within the walls of their home. We meet Junior and Linnie, their son Red and his wife Abby along with their four children and grandchildren. Taylor shares secrets, how they met, rearing the children and even dips into social standing, prejudices and family dynamics from the avoider to the nurturer.
“The thing about caller ID is,” Red said, more or less to himself, “it seems a little like cheating. A person should be willing to take his chances, answering the phone.”
A Spool of Blue Thread is character focused and has a Sunday afternoon lazy pace filled with conversations, stories, and daily life. These conversations and stories kept me picking up the audio repeatedly. While there was nothing to get me anxious or have me holding my breath, I was rather like a fly on the wall eager to dissect this family and to witness what made them tick and explore how their different personalities messed. I could see members of my own family and what roles we take. I laughed aloud watching the siblings interact as Dad zoned out and Mom was ever so careful to not say the wrong thing all while driving home her opinion. Repeatedly. :snort: It tackles obstacles like illness, friendship, work, neighbors, and economics.
“You’re only ever as happy as your least happy child?”
The tale was quirky and fascinating even the home itself became a character. What made this wonderful was how realistic it was. It offered a rare glimpse behind the walls of your presumably perfect neighbors and makes you realize they are just as crazy as you and your family. The only issue I had and it may be that I listened on audio, ( if you have read it let me know if you experienced this) I didn’t always know what period we were in and had to sometimes stop and rewind a bit to determine who we were talking about and what generation.
“The disappointments seemed to escape the family’s notice, though. That was another of their quirks: they had a talent for pretending that everything was fine. Or maybe it wasn’t a quirk at all. Maybe it was just further proof that the Whitshanks were not remarkable in any way whatsoever.”
A Spool of Thread was a fun listen for me, and those looking for an interest character based read will enjoy this literary fiction.