A Spool of Blue Thread: Book Review by Arlene
” FAMILIES ARE LIKE QUILTS
LIVES PIECED TOGETHER
STITCHED WITH SMILES AND TEARS
COLORED WITH MEMORIES
AND BOUND BY
These are the words on a plaque I have had hanging in my kitchen for many many years. I believe all families, large and small, could say truer words were never spoken.
What do we all expect of life… love, joy, sorrow, happiness, disappointments, regrets, new opportunities, peace?
The novel A Spool Of Blue Thread weaves the story of the Whitshank family through the years of their lives pieced together through the smiles and tears and the memories.
The spool of blue thread plays an integral role at the end of the book and it is the perfect title for the ongoing narration by Anne Tyler. You could say she writes in a rambling prose throughout the book in revealing the characters to the readers as she goes.
This is a multi-generational story of a family on many different levels. I felt it answered many questions on how their story began and how the thread of their lives unraveled throughout the years.
A central “character” in the novel is actually the “house” which was the heart and soul of the Whitshank family. The fact that Junior Whitshank desired and eventually was able to purchase the beloved house plays out the pivotal theme throughout the novel. As you read along you can actually feel yourself in the house on Boulton Road.
The swing on the porch provides an insight into two of the main characters of Junior and Linnie Whitshank who are the parents of a daughter, Merrick and a son Red who marries Abby. They have 4 children and as life goes then come the grandchildren.
The book states that one thing was a puzzle: despite Junior’s loquaciousness, his grandchildren never formed a very clear picture of him. Who was he exactly? Where had he come from? For that matter, where did Linnie come from? All these questions are answered for us the reader.
Although boring at times, tedious at times, I always keep going in a book like this one because of the awards and positive recognition it received. If a book deserves all of that it will have something to offer me in the end and I felt this one did just that….when a book makes you think it is well worth the read.
I liked the book and at the end of the last page realized the talent of Anne Tyler.
I appreciated the character development throughout the story line and how Tyler brought forth the sibling relationships to the forefront as the novel progressed.
The totally unexpected death of Abby Whitshank brought to mind how families deal with the sudden and tragic death of a spouse and a mother and a grandmother. I could feel Red’s pain as he came to realize his life would never be the same and was about to change dramatically forever and how hard it is to let go and accept you just can’t go on as usual.
I would say at most times children do not fully understand how powerful a great loss of your love of many years is and all they see and feel are that these changes for the parent who is left to go on are necessary. These children are blinded by the awful acceptance of that total loss.
Mourning the loss of your spouse and the loss of the home/house you loved and shared all those years. Life passes in a flash of time…the older you get the more you realize how true that is.
One thing that stood out for me in this book was how children are born of the same parents, grow up in the same house but yet these children are in some ways alike but at the same time unique in many different ways. That is why when it comes to the time of who the children are left to decide the fate of their parents they fail to see the depth of the sadness that parent must be feeling.
I would have to say give this book a chance. Look beyond the rambling narrative. Look into the heart and soul of the Whitshank family.
I am not saying this book would be for everyone but it is truly a study in human nature.
The Whitshank family is in some way every family.
Go to our book club discussion questions for A Spool of Blue Thread.
Looking for more book ideas? Check out our book reviews!