Every reader I know has a “To Be Read” pile. Even if you only read a few books a year, you still have books lying around that you’d like to get around to reading. Or maybe you’re randomly browsing through a local bookstore and come across a title and think to yourself, “I’d really like to read that eventually.”
My “To Be Read” (TBR) stack is hopeless. Never ending. It’s one of the negative side effects of being a chronic book buyer/reader/lover. It is what it is. A friend of mine asked recently if I would be reviewing any older titles on my blog, or would I only be posting about new releases? “You should call it: In Case You Missed It.” It was a great idea. New releases get a lot of attention, but what about some of the titles that you missed? What about the fabulous reads that still deserve some love?
I started to download a new novel by Anne Tyler that will be coming out in July when it dawned on me that I had an Anne Tyler novel that I still have never read. I should read that before diving into her new one, I thought to myself. It seemed like as good of a place as any to start chipping away at my TBR pile.
A Spool of Blue Thread tells the story of the Whitshank family. Anne Tyler delivers a story of four generations, their troubled relationships, and strained family dynamics. It’s about siblings and marriages and parents. How they see one another and what is really going on underneath. It’s about things that go unsaid, about conversations that never happen, about misconceptions. And all of this centers around their family home on Bouton Road.
I loved Tyler’s storytelling. Broken into four parts, each one revealing more insight into why the family members are who they are. I felt sorry for some of them, hated others. I longed to have a happy resolution for this family and was disappointed that it never came. But then it dawned on me. Families never have resolutions because family drama never ends. You get through one challenge time only to enter into a new one. Sometimes family dynamics never change. The black sheep always remain the black sheep for a variety of reasons. The labels and definitions we give to one another are rarely revised.
At first I only gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. But then I let myself sit with it a bit. No, there was no climax to the story. No, there was little to no resolution given for the conflicts presented to the reader. I don’t believe that was ever the author’s intention. Families aren’t made up of only one big climax. Real life family conflicts aren’t resolved by being tied up with a pretty red bow. Family drama and conflicts fester. They linger. They grow and evolve with the characters being completely unaware.
I ended up giving this book another star because I thought Tyler did an excellent job painting a family portrait that was real. I loved how in parts two and three we are taken back to see how the family legends – the stories that were told and retold – really came about. How the past was influencing the present. How there’s a thread that runs through our families, forever tying us to one another.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Published: 2015 by Ballantine Books
Genre: General Fiction
Where I read: Doctor’s offices, school valet lines
Stephenie’s Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars