A Spool of Blue Thread
A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD, by Anne Tyler, is quintessential Tyler at her best! I loved it.
No one writes Baltimore like Tyler. She lives and writes this city so well because she genuinely does live there. She paints the streets and the people on a canvas as inviting as a green and yellow summer day, sitting on the porch sipping lemonade with the family dog wagging her tail at your feet.
The Whitshank family is headed by Red and Abby. They are both in their early seventies now, and their four children are banding together to figure out the next step for their parents. With Abby found wondering the streets in the early morning hours alone in her nightgown, and Red losing his hearing and not himself after a recent heart attack, the family believes it’s time for some inside help.
Anne Tyler is the queen of family. And she proves this over and over again on every single page of, A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD. This novel is told in third person and it works well here. So many secrets, hard to keep secrets at that. So many lives depending on the keeping of these lies. Not knowing where the story is going. Thinking I did. Storytelling at its best.
Abby Whitshank is a retired social worker. She is famous for dragging home strays, and I am not talking about animals. Her family is never surprised to find a total stranger at the dinner table, again. Red is no nonsense. He’s run a construction company most of his life. And he’s not as deaf as he leads them all to believe. Most of us know someone who hears what they want to hear. These two fell in love a lifetime ago, and have never thought of not being together.
The four Whitshank children are total opposites. But the one thing they have in common is their concern and love for their parents. To the point where there may actually be too many kids willing to move back in to help mom and dad in their dotage.
I was a bit taken back to hear this couple was in their early 70’s. Most people I know at that age are living alone and possibly enjoying life to the hilt. But maybe that is because I am in sunny S.W. Florida. At any rate, the story will hit home to anyone with aging parents, or for people thinking ahead to the time when they may need help.
This story is not candy-coated. But it did make me think. We all need to be prepared for what the future may bring. Accidents will and do happen. We do not wish our children to have to make decisions for us. God, NO. So we need to be smart and have a plan.
The entire Whitshank family travel to the same cottage on the Delaware shore each summer. They caravan with kids, dogs, and beach equipment, and have done so for seemingly ever. This is a great chapter. Tyler has certainly hit the nail on the head when she talks about the same family who rent the cottage nearby. How their family grows over the years and changes, however the Whitshanks do not even know these people’s names. The cottage is not opulent by any means. In fact, shabby chic might be a stretch. But it is where they go to be together and vacation. The sameness of it soothes their souls.
The Whitshank home is really a character, itself. The house has its own story and brings so much life into the novel. Even the original owner has a story with secrets that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Anne Tyler leads us quietly through the story of the Whitshank family. She eases you into their lives, insinuates there is more to the story than there seems to be. Then she packs you with a wallop of a come back!This is the story I’ve been waiting for her to write for years.
Thanks go out to my contact at Knopf! You always come through for me.