‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’ This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They’ve all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself. From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we also see played out our own hopes and fears, rivalries and tensions – the essential nature of family life.
Reading A Spool of Blue Thread was like going down a tumultuous river on a raft knowing fully well that you’ll be safe.
Not a lot of authors get family drama right. But Anne Tyler was able to brilliantly capture the unreliable nature of family legends, the constant bitterness in long marriages and the hopeless pride families have in their ways. She was able to put into words many emotions and tensions within a family that I will only be able to explain by pointing at it when it happens. She is so good that I am surprised that I didn’t know about her until I picked up this book.
Part one of the book was the best (and big). It focuses on the entire Whitshank family and their beloved house. It was like a weird mix between A House for Mr.Biswas and Sense of an Ending. I was hooked from the first page and the author had this nice breezy way of story-telling.
But the rest of the book focused on the previous generation. I didn’t like it as much as the first part because it was not about the family. Or maybe it was because I got used to her writing style by then. Can’t tell why.
In this book, you don’t like or dislike anybody. You are not shocked when secrets are revealed. You don’t want to protect the family from the bad stuff that you know is coming. You don’t even feel sad when someone important dies. Because these are ordinary people you see everyday and this is what life is. You relate more to the author than her characters, somehow.