Monday, February 16, 2015


Kind of eerie reading a book about three generations of family while sitting in my parents' home amid photos of them and my grandparents, while contemplating my life, sibling, and the next generations.

Anne Tyler does not disappoint. I buy her books as soon as they are published without knowing a thing about them.  Since A Ladder of Years, she has written 8 to be recommended books in a row.

This new one-A Spool of Blue Thread,  is no exception. It starts with a depiction of a contemporary family and the difficulties the parents--in their early seventies--are having with a troubled and troubling son.  The reader sees how this child's behavior affects the other three siblings and the relationship of the parents themselves. Then we learn about what transpired to cause the mother to fall in love with the father, and then how the grandparents united.  There are even some references to great grandparents.

So, I sit here in the quiet of my now deceased parents' home, where they lived and I visited for the last 25 years of their life.  And I see pictures on the walls, and in the drawers that I leaf through.  And there are the shots of their parents and I recall all the stories that I'd heard about them.   I sit in 2015 in the middle of an ongoing story; a piece of string on a spool of thread.

Every family has its ongoing story.  Nobody's is blemish free, just some are better at applying make-up.  Anne Tyler is an engaging story teller.  And the characters are--for the most part--so well developed and nuanced.  There are a bunch of kids and characters in this one, so you have got to stay focussed or you might forget who is the kid of whom.  And, it is so Tyler-esque, to draw quirky characters and quirky situations--the two daughters both marry men named Hugh, so one is called Amanda's Hugh and the other Jen's Hugh, and one of the Hughs opens a restaurant that just serves turkey dinners and calls the place Thanksgivings.  And a bunch of other eccentric sorts.

If you are new to Anne Tyler I would not start at this one. Noah's Compass is better and easier as is The Beginner's Goodbye.  The Amateur Marriage I read in about a day it was so impossible to put down.  And there are others of hers that I would recommend before this one.  But that is like making a choice between several desserts each of which you know will be great. If you like to read you will enjoy A Spool of Blue Thread.  If you look at families carefully enough, you will see how they are connected.  This may not be the most uplifting book you will read this year, but it is worth whatever sad musings it fuels.

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