Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Author: Anne Tyler
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: pretty clean read
Three generations of Whitshanks have lived in the house with the wide front porch in a gentrified Baltimore neighborhood. Red's father built the house, and then Red and Abby raised their four children there. Now the children are grown, but the home seems as important to the family as Red and Abby themselves. A Spool of Blue Thread hops back and forth between the generations, showing the insights and deficiencies of three generations of Whitshanks, as well as the way a place can wheedle its way into a family's heart.
I listened to Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread right when I was in the middle of reading the finalists for the Whitney Awards. I was struck by the similarities of Tyler's work to so much of the Mormon women's lit I was reading at the same time-- the works are often domestic and detailed (sometimes overly detailed). One of my frequent criticisms of these types of books is that I don't need to know what everyone wore or ate for breakfast, but Tyler does it right. She's a storyteller with a light touch, who takes the time to create a narrative out of mundane events and unremarkable people (I mean that as a good thing). I've read several of Tyler's twenty novels, and each time I'm impressed with the role of Baltimore in her book-- I love that she has created an entire body of work that highlights a place. I know she only shows the side of Baltimore that she knows, but she does it with such skill. Critics might say that A Spool of Blue Thread is a book where not much happens, and we're not even sure if the people change at all, but I enjoyed the way she told the story so much that those other details were irrelevant.