Monday, 20 April 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread


Author: Lori M Lee
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Source: Local Public Library
Pages: 368
Publisher: Knopf
First Published: February 2015
First Line: "Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son, Denny."

Book Description from GoodReads:  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.


My Review:  A Spool of Blue Thread is a thorough look at family dynamics - the joys, the sorrows and the dysfunction. The reader witnesses the messiness of three generations of Whitshanks including sibling jealousies, marital conflicts, family secrets, loss and ultimately love.

While Tyler's characters have a quirky and eccentric feel to them, you can see yourself (and your family) in her characters.  I wouldn't call them cliched ... just honest, real and relatable and they are well drawn out.  Probably one of the most detailed, well-rounded cast of characters I've read actually.  The reader is taken into the Whitshank household and the relationships between the characters, especially the siblings, felt quite authentic to me.  Even reading about their chaotic family suppers felt like Tyler was taking a page out of my extended family meals together.

Tyler tells the story of the Whitshanks, not through an extensive story line, but instead via their conversations with each other.  I will admit that several times in the book it felt like the plot got bogged down in the details - specifically with grand descriptions of their family home, renovations etc.  The truth was, I was much more interested in the characters than the crown molding in the parlour.  I also wasn't a fan of the haphazard way Tyler told the story by jumping back and forth in time which was clunky in its execution.

It took me awhile to adjust to the tone and slower pace of the book.  In the end it was a decent read but I definitely had my favourite parts (specifically the beginning as we meet Red, Abby and their children and grandchildren).  As the book progressed and we learn about how Red and Abby met I was less enthusiastic about the book.  I found that the section on Junior and Linnie Mae was my least favourite by far.  It had a different feel to it and due to one issue between them it had an 'ew' factor to it that I just couldn't shake.
 This is definitely not a fast paced read but a slower character analysis of a family with all of their dysfunction, love and humour laid out on the table.  The Whitshanks aren't a remarkable family but I think readers will be able to see some aspects in their own family dynamics through witnessing the ups and downs of the Whitshanks.

My Rating: 3/5 stars


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