A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is a slow moving tale about the generally average but slightly quirky Whitshank family. The book begins with the family’s present-day lives then drifts back into their secret history, pulling the generations together by the end.
The Whiteshanks were a normal family with an undeservingly high opinion of themselves. They were excellent at making big deals out of not big deals, especially Abby. Abby was the family matriarch - who I didn’t care much for - who constantly worried about her youngest son. The story revolved around birthdays, family vacations, and coping with aging parents. While I appreciated Tyler's ability to make all of these events relatable, it wasn't exactly thrilling to read.
My biggest complaint (slow moving plot aside) would be the lack of detail about Denny’s life. The opening scene is him calling his parents - who have no idea where he’s living - to inform them he’s gay. Well, he’s not. He just likes to mess with them. So what DO we learn about Denny throughout this book? Basically nothing. He was as mysterious at the end as he was at the beginning and that wasn't a good thing, because so much tension in the family revolves around them not knowing Denny very well. Almost 400 pages doesn’t change that, even though I kept waiting for it.
My favorite part was when the story stepped back a generation and I learned about Red’s parents. Their relationship was a weird story where two people who knew nothing about each other somehow built a family. Red’s mother was not a predator, exactly, but definitely sketchy and doing what she had to to survive. It was an interesting background that added depth to an otherwise boring family.
Lovers of family dramas and stories about leaving a legacy will probably really enjoy this one. If you want something exciting, you’ll be disappointed. I liked writing style enough that I plan to check out Tyler’s Pulitzer winner, Breathing Lessons, one of these days.
3/5 stars! It was solid but not extremely memorable.