Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread

A story about Abby Whitshank’s family, that spool back to memories when she married her husband, Redcliffe Whitshank and lived in his house which was built many years ago, parenting four children and carrying on with life..

A Man Booker’s Prize 2015 Nomination, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler might come across to many readers as a domestic story about a family, which our Indian audience can relate to Karan Johar’s K3G. But when you actually read the book, the plots and secrets revealed about this family keeps you asking for more and more.

The story is about husband and wife, Abby and Redcliffe ‘Red’ Whitshank, who live in their ancestral home. Abby is a social worker and an aspiring poet, sending her poems to publishers from time to time but has not published any. Red is a successful builder and businessman who is easygoing by nature, unlike his wife who wires off at little things. Life is all good and fine, but problems occur when Abby starts calling their dog by  a dead dog’s name and Red has almost stopped hearing.  Out of all their children, Stem, Amanda, and Jeannie gather together and decide on that Stem will move in with his family to take care of Abby and Red.

Once they move in, their fourth child, Denny turns up at their doorstep and moves in too, creating a friction among brothers due to a secret which was kept from Stem since he was 3 years old. A secret that can change the very thread of Whitshank family. But not just one. Secretive Denny has its own past to handle and life to settle in. A vagabond since his teenage years, Denny is never around with family. Would he be able to change himself for the sake of his parents? And then something happens which shakes the core of this family, leaving the readers shocked and wretched.

The book can be divided into four main parts, first part sharing the characters, second part showing how Abby and Red are dealing with their life, third  full of secrets and twists and fourth part charting down family history to Red’s grandfather.

A person can expect a lot of emotional family drama out of it. The storyline might also look drab to few readers, but then you have to be patient enough to read at least half of the book. Because all the good stuff is stored in the second half. Honestly, Anne Tyler would have done much better if she would have kept the first half short. The overall book also would have turned out to be 250-400 pages. Also, the last part of the book doesn’t go much with the overall storyline. It shows present day Whitshanks who  have evolved in their story telling session with kids and have much more stuff to talk about. The climax really should have been removed if it was not related to the story at all.

Overall, the book makes up for an average read. It is not for people who are looking for deep dark family secrets and brothers tearing apart ancestral property. It’s kind of a sweet book, easy to digest but will take a lot of time and patience and to go through. Especially recommended for those who are looking for a light read.


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