A Spool of Blue Thread Book Review

A Spool of Blue Thread: Book Review by Arlene

4 stars








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.


Get copy of the book here. Or try if for free with an Audible trial.

Go to our book club discussion questions for A Spool of Blue Thread.

Looking for more book ideas? Check out our book reviews!

15 thoughts on “A Spool of Blue Thread Book Review

  1. I actually am intrigued by the review. Families in general are very complicated. When you throw in each owns thoughts, dreams, beliefs, death, twists and turns it can make a very interesting read. Thanks for your honest review. I might just have to give it a look.

    1. Hello Alicia Thanks for commenting on my review. I always find when I am in a group of people from the same family , aside from looks, how in some ways they are the same and in other ways they are very different. Human nature is a very interesting study in this complex modern world we live in. The books we love and also the ones we don’t open up so many avenues of adventure into the hearts and minds of all the characters we come to know. I appreciate your comments.

  2. If I get bored I will not pick the book again. Kudos to you for finishing A Spool of Blue Thread!
    Do you usually finish the book just because it’s a well known author?

    1. Hi Peter,
      I usually will finish a book because I like to give it chance to keep my interest engaged. Even well known writers miss the mark in some of their books. I find that to be true when they write a series of books with the same story line and characters. I like to keep changing it up as far as the kinds of books I choose to read.

      Nice to hear from you Peter!

  3. Arlene, when I read your review on A Spool of Blue Thread, my thinking was that this sounds like a regular family. The fact that death occurred also makes it a great book to teach the happy and sad times in a family unit and how the family deals with the issues as a whole. Life offers us a beautiful rose plant, but, it comes with prickly stems as well. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello Josephine We never know what life is going to bring our way. Nothing stays the same and as gererations come and go you can see and feel that family thread weaving it’s way through the lives of those family members. A Spool Of Blue Thread was definitely such a story. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Usually, if I find a book a boring and tedious read I would go straight to the last chapter and see if it would be worth my time to carry on reading it. Lol! I appreaciate your honest review. Lately, I’ve been reading ‘Outlander’ books by Diana Gabaldon. I really love the story and characters!

    1. Hi Yvonne Nice to hear from you! I understand your reading the last chapter when a book seems boring . I find myself reading just the last page when I start any book for no particular reason other than to see what might be happening at the end. A lot of times I get surprised and always enjoy the ride getting there! Dinh loves Outlander too. Someday might give those a try. Thanks

  5. I find I can’t stop reading a book once I begin, too. I always feel like if I stop, I might miss out on something wonderful–the treasure at the end of the rainbow. So kind of you to give this at times “tedious” book a chance. Tyler seems to be fluent in capturing the spirit of a multi-generation family. Great insight, Arlene.

    1. Hi Lonna I just love your insight on reading a book to the end even though it might not turn out to be a favorite “the treasure at the end of the rainbow.” I will always remember your quote as I read all those books on my to read list.
      This particular book was well worth sticking with to the end. The more I read the more I enjoyed this novel. Thanks again for your thoughts!!

  6. I have heard of this book just in passing but was not aware of what it is about. It sounds like the type of book that anyone who is reading can find something that connects with them, hits home with them. A Spool Of Blue Thread sounds like it is worth reading. Great review!

    1. Hi Rachel Thanks for your positive comments on this review. I do feel this novel is well worth reading. The storylines of the central characters brought it all together for me and I feel Anne Tyler did connect family situations that readers of this book can relate to in their lives. Her narrative does ramble on but I got used to it and the more I read the more I enjoyed it.

    1. Hi Sandra. Our Learn A Word is an opportunity for all of us to stretch our vocabulary. Sometimes it is fun took try to fit that word into our daily life if an opportunity arises. I really have been an avid reader for many many years and at times, like you say, it does take patience and optimism to keep going if the book at hand is becoming not a favorite. I always feel at the end though it was worth it on some level. Thanks for your comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *