Twentieth is a charm. Anne Tyler’s new book A Spool Of Blue Tread hits book stores this month and fans everywhere are wondering what’s new in this novel.
The characters seem familiar. They are your family. Their situations are your situations. The background is domestic, perhaps even bordering on the mundane. Yet, Anne Tyler manages to take life’s banality and make a family’s eccentricities seem somewhat interesting.
Anne Tyler has an uncanny ability to find the quirks in families and make them relatable. It’s no wonder her fans have devoured her books for ages. Even though the topic of her current devotion isn’t new, she’s able to tug at the heartstrings gracefully with the requisite mélange of pathos: humour, tragedy, insight, and perhaps even infusing a dash of that que sera sera attitude.
A Spool Of Blue Tread centres around a family where parents Abby and Red Whitshank have four children, three of whom are married and the fourth who is a bit of a wild card prodigal child.
Like adding a touch of spice that livens up a bland dish, Anne Tyler manages to infuses a bit of humour into an otherwise grim situation.
“This is ridiculous,” Merreck said. “Two people get a bit wobbly and their entire family moves in with them? I never heard of such a thing.”
The Whitshanks have their idiosyncrasies, jabbing at each other whenever they get a chance while being supportive at other times. Order is sometimes curtailed, but also ignored. Issues often swept under a rug (or controlled tightly into a spool), only to unravel at a later date and time. Abby seems to do that more than the others. (Typical perhaps!)
“But nobody wanted to sit facing away from the street, so gradually the chairs had migrated to either side of the settee and people once again sat in a straight line gazing outward, not at each other, like passengers on a steamship deck. Abby thought that summed up her role in this family. She had her notions, her ideas of how things ought to be, but everyone proceeded as he or she liked, regardless.”
The Whitshanks are relatable because their lives can be interjected into any American family and the story comes to life. Their ability to put on a good face and go about as if everything is fine, tugs close to the heart even as it belies a dour reality.
A Spool Of Blue Thread grew on me. There is sorrow, but it’s not unbearable. Life moves forward. There is something disjointed about all of the characters, something ragged and out of alignment, but immeasurably commonplace. It’s like we’ve been let into the intimate lives of the family next door, and ironically, it mirrors our own.
Now an extra treat, just because it’s Valentine’s Day this week. Enjoy this beautiful excerpt about Abby falling in love with Red all over again.
“Abby had a little trick that she used anytime Red acted like a cranky old codger. She reminded herself of the day she had fallen in love with him. “It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon,” she’d begin, and it would all come back to her – the newness of it, the whole new world magically opening before her at the moment when she first realized that this person that she’d barely noticed all these years was, in fact, a treasure. He was perfect, was how she’d put it to herself. And then that clear-eyed, calm-faced boy would shine forth from Red’s sags and wrinkles, from his crumpled eyelids and hollowed cheeks and the two deep crevices bracketing his mouth and just his gentle obtuseness, his stubbornness, his infuriating belief that simple cold logic could solve all of life’s problems, and she would feel unspeakably lucky to have ended up with him.”