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Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

8th December, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

This Booker prize shortlisted novel is the story of a family, more ordinary than melodramatic and the series of events that shape it into what it becomes.


This novel has a very simple storyline which is the everyday joy and rifts that occur within the lives of an ordinary white, middle-class Baltimore family, the Whitshanks. The family is a dysfunctional one, just like most ordinary families – chained in family bonds and sprinkled with disagreements. Or perhaps we can say it is the story of a house, the Whitshank residence, because the family members cannot recall their family roots beyond three generations.

“You’re only ever as happy as your least happy child. ”

As we get introduced to different members of the family, we meet Abby, the over sympathetic and patronizing mother who adores social work and even invites less fortunate people to family dinners much to the dismay of her children and the husband, Red, who seems to have more regard for his youngest son Stem than the others. Weaved into this is the story of their children and the unknown damages parents do to them while bringing them up. Often you find the same story in different points of view that makes you appreciate how different each person’s perception of the same turn of events is. One such incident is Abby being bowled over by the love story of her in-laws when Red’s mother narrates it to her. As we read further, we see a completely different story in the mind of Red’s father. There are guarded secrets and unguarded scenarios that chisel the family into what it is today.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

The book is a family saga told in a lucid manner. Each chapter ends on a suspense note of what follows in the pages to come. You find yourself asking ‘why’ or ‘how’ and when the reasons that force the family members behave in a certain way are revealed, find yourself saying, “Oh, that fits!”. The characters are detailed in their descriptions that make us empathize with the flaws in their actions. Each character is fleshed in profound attributes of admirable traits and imperfections that make them seen alarmingly realistic. Be it the over anxious Abby or unreliable Denny or quiet Nora, the book makes you love each character for what they are.

I enjoyed the story, the writing and the character build up in this one. This would be perfect for a light and breezy read, but definitely not if you are looking for a book with heavy themes to ponder about.

Title : A Spool of Blue Thread
Author : Anne Tyler
Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2015
Language : English
Pages : 480 
Rating : 4/5

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A Spool of Blue Thread

About the Author

Anne Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and literary critic. She has published 20 novels, the best known of which are Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1983), The Accidental Tourist (1985), and Breathing Lessons (1988). A Spool of Blue Thread was short listed for Booker prize, 2015 and Bailey’s Women’s prize 2015.

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