Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

A Spool of Blue Thread

Posted by nliakos on October 10, 2015

by Anne Tyler (Knopf 2015; ISBN 978-1-101-87427-1)

Set in Tyler’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, A Spool of Blue Thread tells the stories of Abby and Red Whitshank, their children, Jeannie, Amanda, Denny, and Stem, and Red’s parents, Junior and Linnie Mae.  The first and longest part of the book (214 of the 355 total pages) is titled “Can’t Leave Till the Dog Dies”. Here we see Red, Abby, and their adult children trying to cope with Abby’s decline; she experiences forgetfulness and blank moments when she appears to withdraw and sort of disappear. They try hiring a woman to help out, and when that doesn’t work, Stem and his family move in with Red and Abby, followed quickly by Denny, the “difficult” one, the unreliable one. Tension between Denny and Stem grows as each lays claim to his right to be the one to take responsibility. Then Abby meets with  an accident and is killed. Since Abby seemed to be the main character up to that point, I wondered where the novel would go from there. What happens is that Tyler wraps up that part of the story and begins another part.

Part Two, “What a World, What a World”, goes back in time to tell the story of Abby’s romance with Red.  Part Three, “A Bucket of Blue Paint”, goes back still farther to explore the unusual relationship between Red’s parents–Junior, a builder and carpenter, and Linnie Mae, and with Junior’s obsession with the house on Bouton Road that is the setting for all of the Whitshank stories. Part Four, “A Spool of Blue Thread”, is only 18 pages long and deals with the aftermath of Abby’s death and Red’s giving up the house on Bouton Road, as Denny prepares to leave Baltimore and return to New Jersey, unsure of what awaits him there.

 

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