A Spool of Blue Thread (2015)

by Anne Tyler

The 20th book in Anne Tylerís canon continues her usual subject: a family whose members are challenged and endure. Thereís also Tylerís typical setting of Baltimore, where she lives. Despite the similarities, Tyler still has more insights to give readers as she probes the domain in which most of us experience our deepest connection. 

The Whitshank familyís 70ish parents, contractor Red and social worker/unfulfilled poet Abby, have four grown children. Sibling rivalry is particularly acute between prodigal son Denny, who has a hard time with commitment and disappears for months or years at a time, and informally adopted and reliable son Stem. Mix in two daughters, their husbands, grandchildren, and Stemís Christian fundamentalist wife, and Tyler has ample opportunity to explore tensions and resentments between parents and children, siblings, and spouses. After Abby has a tragic accident and Redís health declines, the family unit appears to be crumbling, along with the house that Red used to lovingly maintain.

Tyler has hinted that now that sheís in her 70s, A Spool of Blue Thread may be her last novel. Her fans hope that isnít the case, since with each novel she manages to create fresh characters who give us more understanding of being human within a family.


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