Thursday, July 19, 2018

Book Brief: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler


by Anne Tyler
Knopf, 2015
358 pages

narrated by Kimberly Farr
13 hours and 23 minutes

Motivation for reading: A book blogger's recent review prompted me to click over to my library's website and discover both the ebook and audiobook were available. Sure wish I could remember whose review it was. Might it have been yours?

Source: ebook and digital audio borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary:
"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon." This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. from Red's father and mother, newly-arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red's grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humour, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler's work, A Spool of Blue Thread  tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

Opening paragraph:
PART ONE
Can't Leave Till the Dog Dies 
1
Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny. They were getting ready for bed at the time. Abby was standing at the bureau in her slip, drawing hairpins one by one from her scattery sand-colored topknot. Red, a dark, gaunt man in striped pajama bottoms and a white T-shirt, had just sat down on the edge of the bed to take his socks off; so when the phone rang on the nightstand beside him, he was the one who answered. "Whitshank residence," he said.
My thoughts:

I've been reading Anne Tyler for decades... starting back in the 1980s with An Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and Saint Maybe. In the mid 90s, our playgroup morphed into a book club (the kids started school, but the moms wanted to keep meeting) and Ladder of Years  was our first selection.

Several years later, I discovered audiobooks. Tyler became my first "audio author" as I listened to The Amateur Marriage, Back When We Were Grownups, and, my favorite, Digging to America.

After joining the book blogging community in 2008, I started reading more classics and nonfiction, and somehow never got around to Anne Tyler's next new novel. Or the one after that, and maybe even another. I really meant to read A Spool of Blue Thread  when it was released in 2015, especially after it was nominated for several awards. Now here we are, midway through 2018, and Tyler has written two more  novels.

So I finally picked up A Spool of Blue Thread  and found myself back in familiar Tyler territory... Baltimore. I found familiar themes and wonderfully complex relationships.
I still love Tyler's description of families, her character development, and they way she delves deep into relationship dynamics. Why did I wait so long?

A note on the audio production: Kimberly Farr's narration was, as always, excellent. Her pacing and tone were just right, and I especially appreciated how she conveyed Nora's (annoyingly) calm, placid demeanor. I was happy to learn she narrated Clock Dance, too.

Bottom line: A Spool of Blue Thread  is a wonderful novel. If, like me, you've been away from Anne Tyler for a while, it's time to go back. Pick up A Spool of Blue Thread  now. I'll bet you'll want to read her new novel, Clock Dance  right away, too.  If you've never read Tyler, this is a great place to start!

My rating:

21 comments:

  1. I'm having a hard time finding a good escape novel this summer. I have several Anne Tyler books ... you have inspired me to take one off the shelf and start reading. Thank you!

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    1. Molly - It's easy to get lost in an Anne Tyler novel. Hope she is just what you're looking for!

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  2. Farr narrates Clock Dance as well and does a good job with it. I've got this one in print and need to pick it up because I love Tyler's work.

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    1. Kathy - I'm hoping to listen to Clock Dance soon!

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  3. I loved this book but I love all of her books.

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    1. Patty - Don't think I've ever been disappointed by an Anne Tyler novel!

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  4. "tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity." That sentence really grabbed my attention.

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    1. Vicki - Yes, that describes her work perfectly!

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  5. Like you, I read several of her books way back. It's been a while, but I was attracted to Clock Dance and will put both it and this one on my list for audio. Now that I've finally figured out all the stuff about audiobooks and the library and my phone, I can see lots of older books on my listening list.

    Oh, and I just listened to and discussed My Brilliant Friend with a book group. Didn't think I'd like it or finish it. I not only did, I'm listening to the 2nd book in that quartet right now. Who knew I'd be a fan of Elena Ferrante? LOL (Reviews to come later on the blog)

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    1. Kay - Figuring out how to get library audiobooks on my phone was a game changer! If your library has hoopla, they're also a good source for audiobooks. You can listen on your phone via the hoopla app. I'll probably go the audio route for Clock Dance.

      You've caught Ferrante Fever!! Those books really make an impression, don't they? You're in for a wild ride. I'll look forward to your review.

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  6. I never thought that I had read much of Tyler until you spooled off all of the books you started with. Yep. I've read all the ones you mentioned except her newest.

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    1. Ti - I read all of her books way back when. Now I'm on the hold list for Clock Dance... hope it's as good as this one!

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  7. I really loved this book!

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  8. I just came across this! https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/anne-tyler-podcast

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    1. Nan - Thank you! This is wonderful!

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  9. I have her on the shelf unread. My mum enjoyed her books. I need to get to it. I sometimes become so overwhelmed by how many books I want to read, I turn on Netflix and binge on a series!! I know...silly🤠🐧

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    1. Oh, Pam ... I know that feeling! Sometimes it all so overwhelming... SO many books to read!

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  10. I'm reading Clock Dance right now. It's not in Baltimore! Yet. Enjoy your vacation.

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    1. Midlife Roadtripper - Not in Baltimore?? That's a departure for Tyler. Hope you enjoy(ed?) the book. I'm still on the hold list...

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  11. Yep I'm on the wait list via the Library for the audio of A Spool of Blue Thread. Her books are always so easy to fall into. Everyday people and everyday lives .... Kent Haruf's books remind me of hers a bit too.

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    1. Susan - Yes, I can see that comparison with Kent Haruf. I like his books, too! The audio of A Spool of Blue Thread is very well done. Kimberly Farr was a great choice to narrate.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. These conversations are my favorite part of blogging. Please check back, I almost always respond to comments!

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