I’m not a huge fan of the family drama – I tend to like a little more storyline to my books. However, who am I to turn down a review copy of the latest Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread? She is, after all, one of America’s most celebrated authors, and this is her twentieth novel.
Although the pace is a little slow, this is a rewarding read for those who enjoy well-constructed characters and emotional drama. The focus of the novel is the Whitshank family. We begin with ageing parents Red and Abby, who are struggling to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer self-sufficient. They refuse to leave the family home (which serves as a focal point for much of the novel) and their adopted son Stem moves in. This causes a rift between Stem and prodigal son Denny, who returns after years of haphazard contact to insist he is the right person to care for his parents.
Along with this, Tyler tells us several stories about the building of the family home. She explores the younger life of Abby and even Red’s parents and how they came to escape the working class and own what was one a grand home. There is real irony here, as family myths are debunked by the change in narration.
The characters, imperfect but perfectly drawn, are real and complex. There is a level of honesty to the story, as if you could imagine it being played out in a home down your street. A masterful example of this genre.